What is a contraction?
Labor contractions are most common during the last trimester (starts from the 29th week of pregnancy) of pregnancy but can often occur as early as mid-pregnancy. True labor contractions usually occur after the 37th week, most likely around your due date. If they occur before 37 weeks (before your expected delivery date) of pregnancy, it is more likely to be a sign of preterm labor. Your doctor may suggest delivering the child before your expected date of delivery.
Braxton-Hicks contractions, also referred to as false contractions, occur throughout the pregnancy. They are usually painless. If you are a first-time mother, you may feel anxious. Do not worry! Dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting, sex or a full bladder can trigger these false contractions.
What do contractions feel like when they first start?
Contractions can feel overwhelming and cause discomfort when they start or you may not be able to feel them unless you touch your belly and feel the tightening. You can feel your belly getting super hard and tight at intervals. It will then become soft and relax back to normal.
What do labor contractions feel like?
Labor contractions assist you to push your baby through the birth canal.
Early labor contractions may feel as if you have an upset stomach or trouble with your digestive system. You may feel them like a tidal wave because they increase and finally subside gradually. Some women feel intense cramps that increase in intensity and stop after they deliver. Some may feel dull pain or discomfort, whereas others feel more of a heavy pressure on their lower abdomen. The sensations vary among pregnant women. Every woman has her own experience.
Additional signs that accompany contractions include
- Dull backache
- Water breaking
- Copious vaginal discharge with mild bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting
Other things that are typical of labor contractions include
- Their frequency: The speed of labor contractions increases steadily and they come more often.
- Their duration: They last for a longer time.
- The interval between two contractions: The time interval between two labor contractions decreases.
- Their intensity: Labor contractions become more intense.
To measure the number and duration of contractions
- Start counting when a new contraction begins. Look for the tightening of the abdomen. Note the duration as soon as it ends. This is the duration of one contraction.
- Continue counting (do not start over) until the next contraction begins and repeat the same process. Note the interval between every two contractions.
- Repeat the same process for one hour.
Each contraction lasts for at least 30 seconds and can go on until 70 seconds during labor. Having one at least every 15 minutes for an hour means you are more likely in labor.
When to go to the hospital
If you are a first-time mother, you should visit the hospital for any contraction if you have additional concerns. A visit to the doctor may decrease your worry.
Call a healthcare provider when labor begins. Your doctor may ask you to be admitted earlier based on your health status and birth history. First-time mothers usually labor for longer than women with a history of delivering previous children. Head toward the hospital as soon as you start feeling the contractions around or after the 37th week.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How Do Contractions Feel When They First Start Related Articles
Childbirth Delivery Methods and TypesThere are various childbirth delivery methods and types such as the Lamaze method, the Bradley method, water birth, and assisted births. Options for where a woman can deliver her baby include home birth, a birthing center, and a hospital. The method and type of labor and delivery options should be discussed with a woman's doctor.
Braxton Hicks Contractions (False Labor)
Braxton hicks contractions are also known as false labor pains. Though these irregular uterine contractions may occur in the second trimester, they're more likely to occur during the third trimester of pregnancy. Unlike true labor pains, false labor pains are often irregular, may stop when you walk, rest, or change positions, and the contractions do not get closer together or stronger.
Braxton Hicks vs. True Labor: How to Tell the DifferenceSome pregnant women may mistake Braxton Hicks contractions (false labor) for real labor contractions, especially in the first pregnancy. Real labor contractions occur at regular intervals that become progressively shorter; more painful as labor progresses; are described as a tightening, pounding, or stabbing pain. Braxton Hicks contractions do not occur in regular intervals; do not become longer over time; and may disappear for a period of time and then return. Braxton Hicks contractions occur in third trimester of pregnancy, however, sometimes can occur in the second trimester. True labor contractions begin around your due date (unless your baby is preterm, in which you will be in preterm labor). So how can you tell the difference? Here are a few similarities and differences between Braxton Hicks contractions and True or real labor contractions.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions tend to become more frequent toward the end of pregnancy, and are not as painful as real labor contractions; do not occur in regular intervals; do not become longer over time; and may disappear for a period of time and then return.
Frequently one of the early symptoms and signs of true labor is when the contractions begin to occur less than 10 minutes apart.
Real labor contractions occur at regular intervals that become progressively shorter; more painful as labor progresses; are described as a tightening, pounding, or stabbing pain; may feel similar to menstrual cramps; and sometimes Braxton Hicks contractions can be triggered by dehydration, sexual intercourse, increased activity of the mother or baby, touching of the pregnant woman's abdomen, or a distended bladder.
Natural and home remedies to soothe and provide comfort for Braxton Hicks contractions include relaxation exercises like deep breathing or mental relaxation; change positions or take a walk if you have been active and rest; drink a glass of herbal tea or water; eat; or soak in a warm bath for 30 minutes (or less).
Preterm labor signs and symptomsWhen you have reached 37 weeks, and the contractions are more painful and are increasing in frequency you will have abdominal pain or menstrual-like cramping, an increase in pelvic pressure or back pain, and the contractions are more than four contractions an hour.
Braxton-Hicks Contractions vs Real ContractionsBraxton-Hicks contractions are usually painless contractions that begin in the first trimester (usually around the 6th week) of pregnancy. Unlike Braxton-Hicks contractions, real labor contractions occur at regular intervals that decrease over time, they become stronger and longer over time and a change in position doesn't relieve the pain and discomfort.
Labor Symptoms (Early Signs)Every woman's experience with labor and delivery is unique for each woman, and thus "Normal" labor varies from woman to woman. Some of the common signs and symptoms of normal labor include the "baby dropping," increase urination, back pain, contractions, and diarrhea.
How Do They Induce Labor?Labor is a process that generally happens naturally in most women. However, it is estimated that 25% of women will need induction of their labor. Labor induction (also known as inducing labor) is stimulating the uterus by external means for faster childbirth through the vagina. This procedure has been increasingly done since the year 1996.
Labor and DeliveryEarly and later symptoms and signs of labor and delivery are unique to each woman. Early signs of labor are "lightning" and passing the mucus plug. Later symptoms and signs that labor that labor is are the woman's water breaking, and when contractions begin. There are three stages of labor, stage 1 is the longest and occurs when the cervix begins to thin and dilate. During stage 2 of labor the baby passes through the birth canal and remains there until delivery, and stage 3, is when the baby is delivered.
How Long Does It Take to Go Into Labor After Being Induced?In most healthy pregnancies, labor usually starts spontaneously between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. The onset of labor is characterized by softening and opening of the cervix, following which the uterus starts contracting and the water breaks.
Stages of PregnancySee pictures on the various stages of pregnancy. See and learn what changes a woman's body goes through and view fetal images of how her baby grows during the 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
What Is Better: Normal or Cesarean Delivery?Delivery of a full-term newborn baby (37-42 weeks from the last menses of mother) through the vagina without the use of forceps or vacuum for assistance is called a normal delivery of a baby. It is the most preferred option of delivery in the United States, that is, almost two of every three deliveries are normal.
What Is the Process of Normal Delivery?Normal delivery refers to childbirth through the vagina without any medical intervention. It is also known as a vaginal birth. Every delivery is unique and may differ from mothers to mothers. There are different stages of normal delivery or vaginal birth.