Contractions During Pregnancy are Common - Learn How To Prepare

As the final days of pregnancy arrive, preparations move into full swing for the birth of the baby. For the last trimester of the pregnancy, Braxton-Hicks contractions were likely happen at an increased rate, giving a foretaste of what to expect. These practice contractions appear as irregular tightening of the uterus and can begin as early pregnancy contractions. They're most noticeable toward the end of the second and into the third trimester.

Braxton-Hicks Or Something More Serious?

Early pregnancy contractions can indicate potentially serious problems, or they may be nothing to be worried about. Sometimes the sensation of contractions are felt as the uterus grows to accommodate the growing baby. Since contractions can feel like menstrual cramps, implantation can feel like contractions. If these sensations occur a little later in the pregnancy and continue for longer than a couple of days, it is important to see the doctor. A miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy may be occurring and medical help is essential. Another situation where pregnancy contractions are a symptom of something serious is in the case of preterm labor. This is labor that happens before 37 weeks gestation. It occurs with low back pain that doesn't go away and cramping that feels like menstrual cramps. The tightening in the abdomen that accompanies preterm labor feels decidedly different from Braxton-Hicks contractions, coming close together and covering more of the belly. Again, this type of pregnancy labor contraction needs medical assessment.

True Labor In Action

When the contractions are true labor contractions they have specific sensations associated with them. While Braxton-Hicks contractions are typically felt in the tummy, true labor contractions are experienced in several places, including the low back, lower abdomen, upper thighs, buttocks and hips. They usually start out feeling like menstrual cramps and as they progress over time they develop a rhythm and pattern. They slowly build, come to a peak, and then decline starting out at perhaps 30 minutes apart and growing closer to two minutes apart. As they grow closer together, they also become longer in duration. Timing contractions in pregnancy is part of the experience and can be very effective in terms of keeping a partner occupied while waiting for things to really get going. It is important to know how close together the contractions are coming in order to know when to leave for the hospital-if that's where the baby is to be born. Otherwise, timing contractions at home for a home birth can be an exciting way to know when the new member of the family will arrive. It isn't unusual for some contractions to be only 30 seconds in duration and then extend to a couple of minutes toward the end. This is where breathing, walking, and using relaxation techniques come in handy.

Signs Of Labor

Pregnancy signs of labor begin long before the baby actually arrives. Several physical and hormonal changes occur that bring pregnancy contraction symptoms to the fore. The baby drops into a lower position in the pelvis, preparing for delivery. This is called lightening and it can happen several weeks, days, or hours, before labor contractions begin. Lightening puts added pressure on the bladder, making frequent trips to the bathroom necessary. The mucus plug that covered the cervix and acted as a barrier to bacteria may loosen and pass. As the cervix thins and stretches the lower section of the uterus prepares to dilate for delivery. This is called effacement. Sometimes the membranes rupture with a gush of amniotic fluid, and sometimes there is nothing more than a trickle of fluid signaling that labor is about to begin. Sometimes the membranes are ruptured by the doctor or midwife during labor. The uterus dilates, or opens, to prepare for the baby to move from the uterus down the birth canal and out into the world. A "fully dilated" cervix measures ten centimeters and when it reaches that point, birth happens. The surest pregnancy sign of labor is consistent labor contractions that are hard, long, and intense. When that happens, within a very short time a baby is born.

Baby Experiences The Contractions As Well

During labor the baby experiences the contractions as well. That is why the baby's heartbeat is constantly monitored by the nurses or midwife. A normal heart rate during contractions indicates the baby is receiving adequate oxygen from the mother's bloodstream. Typically, the baby contractions have a pattern of slowing the heartbeat somewhat during the contraction and the heartbeat rises again when the contraction ends. An abnormal baby response during contractions indicates there is a problem and the baby may be in danger. This could necessitate further testing, more monitoring or intervention.

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