Contractions: how they arise and how to recognize them

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Catherine Le Nevez
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Contractions how to recognize them

How to recognize contractions? It is not unusual to have contractions during pregnancy. But understanding when to worry? The first contractions can occur around the fourth month: they are called contractions of Braxton Hicks and they are neither painful nor dangerous and they are irregular: they serve to prepare the uterus for the growth of the fetus.

Shortly before labor, regular and more painful contractions may occur, they can be a sign that labor is about to begin so it is good to follow them carefully and eventually call the doctor.

In this article

  • Contractions, how to recognize the symptoms
  • But how can contractions present themselves?
  • Twitching or heartburn?
  • Preparatory contractions
  • When to go to the hospital

Contractions, how to recognize the symptoms

How to recognize contractions preparatory to childbirth? Here are the most frequent symptoms:

  • the uterus contracts and then relaxes giving a sensation similar to menstrual pain, but more intense than usual
  • The belly may harden to the touch. To recognize if it is a contraction or not, you can lie on your back and push your fingertips on your stomach, if you find resistance it can be a contraction.
  • Contractions of labor can be recognized why they are more regular, painful and last more than 30 seconds
  • The contractions are felt first in the lower back, then radiate to the abdomen and vice versa
  • There may be blood loss
  • They can be accompanied by the breaking of the waters

But how can contractions present themselves?

Let's see what types of contractions can occur during pregnancy

  • Braxton Hicks Contractions
  • Prodromal contractions
  • Kidney contractions
  • Uterine contractions

Braxton Hicks Contractions

They are also called false contractions e is an isolated phenomenon and is caused by the progesterone which controls uterine contraction and prevents it from occurring early in the pregnancy. There must be no more than 5 in an hour. They can also be caused by the movements of the baby, who, towards the end of the pregnancy, turns upside down, to prepare for the birth and to go out in the right position.

If they are not a rare phenomenon but they begin to occur regularly, it is good to contact the gynecologist who will carry out a monitoring to make sure that the uterine cervix is well closed. It is important to follow a healthy and relaxed lifestyle: stress and excessive fatigue can promote contractions even during the first months of pregnancy. Finally, particular attention if the contraction is accompanied by hot flashes and tachycardia can be the sign of a risk of miscarriage.

Prodromal contractions

The prodromal contractions or prodromal contractions experienced during labor are more painful, recur at increasingly regular intervals, and last from 30 to 60 seconds.

Kidney contractions

They are very common in the early stage of labor and quite painful. Kidney pain can also occur in the fourth month of pregnancy and if it is an isolated episode there is no need to worry. How do you recognize a contraction that comes from the kidneys? The belly hardens and the pain however radiates from the lower back to the kidneys, which causes a real backache. These contractions can also occur at night and prevent you from sleeping.

Generally, kidney contractions are caused by position who took the baby in the womb. Pay attention to the regularity of the contractions especially if you are almost to dates: renal contraction is felt and can be the beginning of labor so never underestimate them and call the gynecologist. To soothe the pain caused by kidney contraction, a warm bath, some movement around the house or a massage on the lower back can be very helpful.

Uterine contractions

Recognizing early contractions may not be easy. Generally a contraction corresponds to one tension at the level of the belly which lasts a few seconds and then disappears: the abdomen is hard to the touch because the uterus contracts.

  • To make sure it is a contraction you can try lying down with your legs bent: can you push your fingertips into your belly? If you can't, it's a contraction.
  • Another useful method to understand if it is a contraction is to measure the time of its duration: the uterus is not able to maintain a contraction for more than a minute, so if it lasts more than 40-50 seconds it cannot be a contraction.

The contraction can also be caused by the baby's movements: in this case the whole belly is not hardened but only the area where the baby is moving.

Twitching or heartburn?

We must also learn not to confuse the contraction with heartburn (a typical ailment of pregnancy) or with muscle and pelvic pain: in general women who suffer from pelvic pain begin to feel symptoms in the early second trimester, may increase in the late afternoon due to fatigue accumulated throughout the day, and may last for hours

Preparatory contractions

Also call Braxton-Hicks contractions, le preparatory contractions they occur frequently in the third trimester of pregnancy and vaguely resemble menstrual cramps. They do not change the cervix and do not serve to dilate or shorten it. These contractions affect the uterine muscle tissues and are irregular, not very painful, pass when walking or resting.

When to go to the hospital

During the prodromic phase, which can last several hours, it is not necessary to go to the hospital. It is much better to stay at home, where you can rest, take a walk or take a hot bath in comfort. You have to go to the hospital when you have entered the phase of active labor, when the contractions have become regular and close together and last about a minute, appearing every 3-4 minutes.

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