How to recognize contractions?

How to recognize contractions?

Published: 15.05.2023
Updated: 06.12.2023

In the final phase before giving birth, women often ask doctors or more experienced mothers how to recognize that the child is definitely asking about the world. Labor contractions are also one of the symptoms. Although it might seem that the symptoms of labor are unequivocal, first-time mothers in particular may be surprised by, for example, false contractions, the so-called Braxton-Hicks contractions (messengers) or dynamic movements of the baby in the abdomen. At the same time, it is not possible to generalize how the given woman will perceive false or real contractions, how painful they will be or how intense they will be. Each pregnancy is very specific and women's experiences with real or false contractions are often very different.

Contractions are contractions of the uterine muscles . The role of labor contractions is to ensure that the cervix opens enough for natural labor to take place and the baby to come out through the birth canal. Pregnant women, especially first-time mothers, can easily mistake real contractions for false contractions. However, there are also women who do not experience any false contractions during pregnancy.

And how to recognize contractions? How are labor contractions different from false ones? False contractions should not be seen as something bad, they also have a purpose. Premature contractions (messengers) prepare the cervix and "train" it to open properly. With these contractions, mothers prepare the birth canal itself. Here are some tips on how to recognize contractions.

Braxton-Hicks contractions tend to appear during the 2nd-3rd trimester, but also a few weeks before the expected birth. True contractions will most likely appear around the 37th week of pregnancy. If true contractions occur before this period, there is a risk of premature birth. Important identifying features are the interval and intensity of the pain. A true contraction lasts around 30 to 90 seconds, while the duration of the first contractions can be extended and the total duration of the contractions is several hours. The pains are stronger and intensify. The interval is gradually shortened, e.g. every 10 minutes, 8 minutes or 5 minutes and less. Messengers have an irregular (unpredictable) interval of contractions, while the interval between them does not shorten as in true contractions. They are less painful. They are not accompanied by any other symptoms , such as loosening of the mucus plug, change in breathing rate, pinkish discharge, pain in the pelvis or lower back, and others.

Real contractions are described by women as strong menstrual pains that create pressure on the lower back or pain that shoots into the thighs. Attacks of pain are typical, which intensify and then subside until the arrival of the next contraction. The pain is localized in the entire lower abdomen. False contractions are not so painful, they are often manifested by a hardening of the abdomen and discomfort in the lower abdomen . When changing the position, it is possible that the pain will disappear. With regular contractions, changing the position does not help, and the contractions are just as intense.

How women characterize the course of contractions is very individual. The majority of women most often report that labor contractions were accompanied by other symptoms. Mothers in labor consider the intensity of pain and the intervals between contractions to be the most distinctive sign.

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