Various aches and pains manifest themselves during pregnancy, and in the early part of the pregnancy there are some discomforts that may feel rather like contractions but aren’t, in any healthy pregnancy.
They could just be gas, or the ligaments and muscles of the abdomen stretching to accommodate the growing baby and uterus.
Any contractions during pregnancy can be alarming, but they need not be.
Contractions during pregnancy could, in some cases be the sign of a miscarriage or preterm labor when they occur towards the latter part of the pregnancy, but for the most part they are not a cause for alarm.
In actual fact, contractions during pregnancy are an ongoing process and they occur throughout pregnancy. However women don’t usually feel these contractions for the major portion of the pregnancy. It is only later, towards the end of the pregancny that one may start to feel practice and other contractions.
According to the March of Dimes, there are two main kinds of contractions during pregnancy –
Braxton Hicks Contractions are known as false labor or practice contractions, where the uterus starts to undergo some contractions as a means of practicing for real labor. These contractions are meant to thin and soften the cervix, in preparation for the delivery. These are felt most in the weeks before your due date.
It is a squeezing sensation in the groin or abdomen, and a tightening of the uterus muscles that are a sign of Braxton Hicks. At times the contractions may be barely perceptible, and at others, they could feel painful and be fairly strong.
Though they can be quite unpredictable in that they can occur at any time of the day or night, they are most likely to occur when a woman is tired, or at the end of a day full of physical activity.
Labor Contractions – These are real contractions during pregnancy that herald the imminent arrival of the baby. When these contractions occur anytime after the 37th week, they are normal. If however they start to occur before that time, this is termed as preterm labor. So how can you tell each of the kinds of contractions from the other?
The main differences between the two kinds of Contractions during pregnancy are –
- Braxton Hicks are unpredictable and irregular, whereas real labor has contractions that last between 30 and 70 seconds.
- Real contractions get progressively closer together with time, with there being less and less time between two contractions.
- Also labor contractions get progressively stronger and more painful over time, whereas Braxton Hicks do not show this progressive tendency.
- While the false labor may be felt only in the lower abdomen and the groin at times, real labor will sometimes start in the back and then move to the front.
- False or practice labor may stop when you move about but real labor will continue regardless.
- Real labor may be accompanied or preceded by a clear or bloody discharge, the baby settling lower in the belly or the water breaking. Keep on the lookout for one of these signs of contractions during pregnancy.