Experiencing contractions in your third trimester means that you have reached the last stage of your pregnancy and are ready to welcome your little one. At this stage, it is important to check the frequency of contractions and ways to time them.
Armed with this information, your healthcare provider can then gauge whether or not it is time to rush you to the hospital. But before we jump to that, let’s first understand how labour works and how you can best time the frequency of contractions.
Labour and Frequency Of Contractions: All You Need To Know
Labour Pain (Photo Credits: Flickr)
Labour or the childbirth process starts when the baby leaves the uterus.
You know you are in labour when you feel regular contractions that cause your cervix to dilate (open up) and the muscles of your uterus become tight and then relax.
The uterine muscles contract during a contraction before relaxing. Contractions aid in pushing your unborn child from your womb. The uterine cervix, which is located at the top of the vagina, is the opening to the uterus. Your cervix dilates when labour begins (opens up).
How Do Contractions Feel Like?
Contractions usually feel like a dull backache, pain in the lower abdomen, or pressure in the pelvic region.
From the top of the uterus to the bottom, pregnancy contractions move in a wave-like motion from the top of the uterus to the bottom.
They can also sometimes feel quite similar to that of menstrual or diarrhoea cramps. At the beginning of labour, most contractions last from 60 to 90 seconds and occur every 15 to 20 minutes. They decrease in duration and increase in frequency as labour draws closer.
The discomfort and frequency of contractions increase as labour progresses. They might prevent you from speaking.
It is during this time that you will need to time yourself.
Frequency Of Contractions: How To Count & Time Them
Ideally, you (or your partner) should start counting from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next.
As soon as you feel a contraction, or what you believe to be a contraction, you can begin timing them. In fact, one technique to distinguish between actual labour and false labour is by timing the contractions you are experiencing. Although there are several ways to time contractions, the main objective is to observe the pattern.
One of the easiest methods is to write them down on paper, each time a contraction begins. Note down its duration, or count the seconds until the actual contraction lasts.
You can learn a lot about how your labour is moving by observing how the pattern changes (for instance, having more contractions that last longer and are getting closer together). You can time your contractions with the aid of your partner, a friend, a family member, or even an app.
You can also mark the time from the start of one contraction to the start of the next one. Note them for at least an hour to see if there is a pattern.
Patterns you can use to describe your contractions
- Regular contractions. When the length and frequency of a contraction remain steady throughout time, it is deemed regular. An illustration would be 60-second contractions spaced five minutes apart over the course of an hour.
- Irregular contractions. When there is no consistent pattern, contractions are erratic. An illustration would be a series of three contractions spaced 10, 7, and then 15 minutes apart, each lasting between 30 and 45 seconds.
- Progressing contractions. Progressing contractions are those that last longer and happen more frequently. Contractions lengthen, intensify, and cluster closer together as labour progresses.
- Nonprogressing contractions. Contractions that do not prolong, intensify, or cluster together. This could indicate that the cervix is not opening during the contractions. It typically indicates that additional work is being done, such as rotating your baby or softening or thinning the cervix.
The traditional method to count contractions is the 5-1-1 rule. This is when contractions occur every 5 minutes, each lasting a full minute, and have been that way for an hour.
Some experts also recommend the 4-1-1 (four minutes apart) or even 3-1-1 (three minutes apart) method.
Remember that each pregnancy is different and there is no set thumb rule. It is sometimes important to trust your instincts. If you feel something is wrong, immediately inform your healthcare provider.
Benefits Of Timing A Contraction
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One of the major benefits of timing contractions is that it can help you tell the difference between true and false labour contractions. It is necessary to understand this difference to help you know when you are really in labour.
This is important because not all contractions mean you are going into labour.
If Contractions Are 2 Minutes Apart, How Much Longer Is It Till Birth?
When your cervix is 10 cm dilated, the first stage of labour is over and the second stage starts. You start attempting to push your baby out during this stage of labour, which is typically the most challenging. It could last for 30 minutes or several hours.
What to anticipate:
- Contractions become less frequent, occurring every two to five minutes and lasting between 60 and 90 seconds.
- You can take a break in between contractions, but you must push when they occur. When it’s time to push, your healthcare provider will let you know.
- Your baby “crowns,” or when their head starts to protrude.
- Your healthcare provider pushes your baby out of your delivery canal to deliver it. To assist the infant, they occasionally employ forceps or suction.
- Your healthcare practitioner will cut the umbilical cord once your baby is born.
Some women give birth to their children via planned or unexpected caesarean section (c-section). In order to remove your baby, a medical professional creates a cut in your belly and uterus rather than pushing it out through your vagina.
Difference Between True Contraction And Braxton Hicks
You may experience contractions on and off before true labour starts. We know this as false labour or Braxton-Hicks contractions. There are few visible differences between a true contraction and a false.
First, labour contractions continue even if you switch positions or move around. False contractions may go away once you move. Real contractions get stronger and more painful as time passes, but false contractions get weaker.
Watch out for other signs to know if you have gone into labour like:
Once you reach this stage, the next steps would be going through the actual three-stage labour process.
- The first stage includes the time the contractions begin and your cervix starts to fully dilated.
- The second stage is when your body shifts from dilating to pushing, and the movement of your baby through the birth canal and into the world.
- The third stage is when your placenta is delivered and your body starts to recover.
Now, if you are in a hospital your healthcare provider will likely take you through the three stages and safely deliver the baby. But what if you are at home?
How to Ease Contractions Pain At Home
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Assuming that your contractions have started, and you are at home, there is still some time for you to reach the hospital. The first step is to relax and not panic.
Here are a few things which you can do at home during early labour to ease contractions pain:
1. Walk or Move
During labour, walking, moving about, and remaining upright will help your baby go down into the birth canal. Additionally, you are ensuring that you are as comfortable as possible at all times.
To reduce discomfort, you might utilise a variety of relaxation techniques. Some people enjoy incense, while others enjoy meditation. In general, relaxing techniques reduce labour discomfort. Just make sure the hospital or birthing facility can accommodate your plans.
With massage or when heated over a burner, essential oils are used. Although there is no proof that aromatherapy relieves pain, some women find it to be pleasant. Verify that your hospital or birthing centre allows aromatherapy before using it.
Touch has a tremendously strong impact on the human body and mind. Oxytocin, the love hormone, is released by touch, which helps the birthing mother feel less anxious and stressed. Additionally, it aids in the shut-off of your pain receptors during labour, reducing the amount of discomfort you experience.
When it comes to pain treatment, music is an excellent instrument. It can make her feel more at ease and serves to divert her attention from her discomfort. A woman in labour benefits while music is playing by breathing rhythmically along with it. Additionally, it provides her something to think about other than her contractions. When in labour, distraction is essential.
6. Dimmed Lights
Most women go into labour in the wee hours of the morning. This is not by chance. At night, our melatonin levels rise, allowing our bodies to unwind and start labour. It has been demonstrated that exposure to light during labour can reduce or even stop contractions.
7. TENS Unit
Women have long relied on TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) therapy as a natural painkiller to keep them at ease when giving birth. It is a little, portable device that reduces pain by applying a gentle, painless electrical current. The most typical application is to ease back discomfort.
8. Position Changes
Changing positions throughout labour has several advantages. Different positions might speed up labour and lessen pain by widening the pelvic opening. A prolonged period of time spent in one posture might slow the pace of labour and make the contractions more painful. So make sure you’re shifting positions at least every hour or every 30 minutes.
9. Focal Point
Having and focusing on a focal object is a fantastic coping mechanism during labour. You simply focus on something when you are having strong contractions; it could be a crack in the wall, a button on your support person’s shirt, or even an image from your ultrasound.
Employing visual imagery is the opposite of using a focal point. Pain management during childbirth can be greatly reduced by using visualisation. When you close your eyes and picture a peaceful location, such as a sunny beach, a campfire, a flowing creek, or a clear lake surrounded by mountains, for instance. To help you mentally travel there, look at some photos of your preferred vacation places.
Other helpful images that labouring women can see are their cervix opening, their baby moving down the birth canal, or their breath moving in and out of their bodies.
11. Counter Pressure
Most women in labour love this since it improves back pain and other localised discomforts. What is your method? You put a lot of pressure on the lower back areas that hurt or where the contraction occurs.
12. Focused Breathing
During your childbirth class, hopefully, your instructor will discuss breathing patterns in labour. You can concentrate and work during each contraction by breathing.
Water is used in hydrotherapy to provide physical or psychological benefits. Once labour has begun, it is something that all women appreciate. Both the shower and the tub are excellent.
14. Use the Restroom
In addition to making you feel more at ease, using the restroom and emptying your bladder will ensure that your bladder is not supporting your baby’s head when it is pressing against your cervix and causing you to dilate. You’ll be able to go about more easily if your bladder is empty.
Going number two is also advantageous! It’s making space for a baby to pass through by taking everything out. Additionally, every mother in labour benefits greatly by crouching on the toilet and relaxing their bottom.
15. Eat and Drink
A light meal would be beneficial for the majority of healthy women during birth, according to a recent study by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. They came to the conclusion that labouring mothers require the same amount of calories and energy as marathon runners.
16. Cold & Hot Compresses
During labour and childbirth, both cold and heat packs can lessen discomfort and improve comfort. This is how:
- Apply a cool washcloth to the upper chest, neck, and face. The labouring mother might rest and be refreshed as a result.
- Apply a cold towel to the back of her neck if she is feeling queasy to assist ease the discomfort.
- Applying a cold compress to the lower back helps relieve back pain or labour.
- After giving birth, apply ice packs to the perineum. This will aid in minimising oedema.
- Comfort during labour is provided by warm, wet towels, a hot pack, a hot water bottle, or a heating pad put beneath the pregnant belly.
- Just before pushing, use a warm, damp towel to the perineum to ease discomfort and promote the perineal tissues’ softening and stretching in preparation for birth.
- Back pain during childbirth can be treated with a heat pack or a hot water bottle.
- After delivery, while nursing, it is beneficial to place a warm pack or heating pad on the stomach to help ease cramping while the uterus returns to its previous size.
As you get closer to your due date, it is very important to prepare yourself mentally and understand the signs of labour to help you sail through a smooth delivery. Also, cross-check your hospital bag to see if you have missed packing any essential items.
Contractions: When To Go To Hospital
Your doctor or midwife will advise you on whether to call them or head straight to the hospital as your due date draws near. You could have specific guidelines to follow based on your medical history and the nature of your pregnancy.
You should go to the hospital if your contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, and lasting an hour or more. (An additional method to remember this basic principle: If they’re becoming “longer, stronger, and closer together,” a baby is on the way.”)
Generally speaking, the objective is to go to the hospital after active labour has begun (spending the hours of early labour at home). Your body will give you several cues that active labour is on the horizon.
While your body will give you hints that the birth of your child is near, only a medical practitioner can definitively determine whether your labour has begun and what stage you are in (often with a vaginal exam).
Updates by Matt Doctor
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