Going Into Labor – Knowing It’s for Real

Starting as early as the second trimester you may begin to have contractions. This occurs as your uterus contracts and relaxes repetitively. Some of these may be caused by the baby’s stretching, while others are simply the uterus moving the baby into birthing position and preparing your body for actual labor. These practice contractions are called Braxton Hicks, after the scientist who first noted them in 1872.

Braxton Hicks contractions feel more like pressure than pain. They may be felt from inside the body, or by placing a hand on the belly. For the most part, it will simply feel like your stomach has tightened. While medical dictionaries may say that they are not painful at all, most pregnant women disagree, and say that they feel very much like real labor pains toward the end of the third trimester. This can make it difficult to tell if you are actually in labor or if you are having Braxton Hicks contractions, especially if it is your first pregnancy.

These pre-labor pains are perfectly normal, and nothing to worry about. They may increase in intensity as you move around, and lessen or disappear as you rest. If you are overly uncomfortable and having contractions try resting for a while and drinking a glass of water. This will usually make them stop. You can also take warm baths to relax the muscles, which will also relax the uterus and stop the contractions. If you are ever in doubt of whether your contractions mean you are in labor, try these methods to stop them. If they become more frequent and regular rather than ceasing, you may be in labor.

The easiest way to tell the difference between Braxton Hicks and real labor is the length and frequency of the contractions. Braxton Hicks contractions are often irregular in frequency, and do not become very close together. Labor pains, on the other hand, will be very regular in timing and frequency. They will start out at about fifteen or twenty minutes apart when you first notice them, and increase in frequency to about ten minutes apart. Once you have had contractions lasting more than thirty seconds at ten minutes apart for one hour or more, it is likely time to start heading to the hospital.

Braxton Hicks contractions are also less painful than labor pains, and not as intense. They usually occur only in the abdomen. Labor pains, by contrast, will typically encircle the abdomen and go around into your back. They will be very intense, and they will likely be painful. Rather than simply feeling a tightening of the abdomen, you will feel as though a ring within your stomach has cinched to half its original size. Walking will make the contractions stronger and more frequent, and help progress your labor.

If you are unsure whether or not you are in labor, you should call your doctor. He will ask you the intensity, length, and frequency of your contractions. If there is any doubt that you might be in labor, he will have you go to the hospital. It is not uncommon to make several trips to the hospital as contractions start and stop, preparing your body for giving birth. Even though these tips can help you determine the difference between fake and real labor pains, there is no guarantee. Especially with first pregnancies, contractions can come frequently and regularly without progressive labor.

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