So, you’re at your last term of pregnancy and probably anxious about labour. If you’re a first-time mum, you must be at the end of your wits. Yes, those Hollywood movie portrayals of labour could really do us a number. Even mums who have given birth before dread this part. Not just because it can be painful, but because anything can happen really.
The amazing thing though is if you dig deep enough (or you just read this article), you’ll be prepared for whatever happens during your labour – even ease contractions. Now, don’t be discouraged. Every woman has a different experience with labour. Some consider the contractions as some kind of a special gift from hell while some women just dub them as discomfort. Why is that? Because we all have different pain tolerance levels.
Now, regardless of your pain tolerance, you WILL still feel contractions when you’re ready to deliver your baby. So, it helps to know a little bit more about them.
False vs. Real Contractions
Yes, there are false contractions. They are otherwise known as practice contractions or Braxton Hicks contractions. There really isn’t any other way of explaining it other than your body giving you a slight test run before the real thing.
So, how do you tell them apart? How will you know if you’re having a real contraction and will need to go to the hospital right away? What do early labour contractions feel like? The key is knowing when real contractions should occur and how consistent those contractions are coming.
Braxton Hicks contractions usually occur after you’ve finished your second term of pregnancy. Where do you feel these contractions? Usually, on your lower abdomen and then the pain trickles down to your upper thighs, pretty much where you feel your regular menstrual cramps.
Some ask if they feel like you want to poop. Some women feel like that is the case, some women don’t. Generally, the feeling is like your whole abdomen area is clenching.
You’ll know they’re false contractions when the pain goes away after changing positions in your bed. You might also notice that the contractions do not get more intense, get more frequent, and get longer as time goes on. If that’s the case, then what you probably have is Braxton Hicks contractions.
So how does the real thing feel? What do early contractions feel like? Like Braxton Hicks contractions, you will also feel them around the lower abdomen area. Unlike false contractions, your whole belly will also feel harder than usual. And, the contractions get more intense, more frequent, and longer as time progresses. You’ll want to download a contraction timer for this because keeping count can be quite stressful.
So, how do we time contractions? The rule of thumb is 5-1-1: 5-minute intervals between contractions, 1-minute -long contractions in 1 hour. If your contraction timer logs say your contractions are pretty consistent with this number, it’s time to get your husband to call your doctor and maybe time to load your car with your hospital bag.
If you are unsure, call your OB. Describe to them every single thing you are feeling, so they can better assess if what you’re experiencing are false contractions or the real thing.
Tips for Easing Contractions Without Drugs
Once you’ve confirmed you are having real contractions, now comes applying some of our recommended home remedies to ease painful contractions. You don’t always have an epidural lying around, and it can get risky getting some during the early parts of your labour. So, let’s ease those pains the natural way.
Touch is a powerful thing. So powerful it can distract you from the pain. That is why massage is also a very useful home remedy to ease the pains of contractions.
These little things are magical to labouring women. Research has confirmed that by placing heat pads or hot compresses on the area where women feel the most pain feel, their pain lessens. As it turns out, the heat helps your body release its natural painkillers called endorphins. This item can be a good baby shower idea.
Moving around helps your body lower pain. So, you can walk, sway, and squat. Some recommend bouncing on a birth ball. It’s great not only for relieving painful contractions but also for keeping you in an upright position, which is optimal for delivery.
Find what’s comfortable for you though. Try different ways of moving, and when you find a particular move that’s the most comfortable for you, stick to it.
Labour Pain (Photo Credits: Flickr)
Much like how a warm bath soothes and relaxes you after a long hard day of work, a warm bath is also going to help soothe the pains that come with labour. A study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that a warm bath lessens the use of epidurals, which means it’s effective in reducing pain.
A warm bath is also known to relieve back pains and speed up labour. You’re going to want to jump right into a tub of warm water with that many benefits. Okay, of course, don’t jump. Just… step into the tub – that’s safer. For best results, take your handheld showerhead and let the warm water stream down your back or your abdomen.
Keeping your breathing in sync with your contractions is a great way to: (1) distract you from the pain, (2) relax your mind and body, and (3) keep your oxygen supply up.
Now, rhythmic breathing takes practice. That’s why there are classes for it. So, about your 7th or 8th month, you might want to take a few moments out of your day to practice rhythmic breathing. Pro tip: moaning as you breathe can also relieve pain.
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Pooping During Labour: Why There’s No Need to Be Embarrassed
When to Be Concerned During Labour
Now, of course, issues cannot be avoided when you are going through something as monumental as labour. So, here are a few red flags that mean you need to contact your doctor ASAP.
- When you feel real contractions but you’re not on your 37th week yet – that can be preterm labor. Proceed to the hospital immediately.
- Your water breaks but don’t experience contractions after – your doctor might need to induce your labour.
- Your water breaks, but it has a brownish or greenish colour – that could mean your baby pooped in your womb.
- You could feel your umbilical cord slip down your vaginal canal – that baby needs to come out safe, and if you feel your umbilical cord come down your lady part, your baby’s head could get tangled in it.
There you go. All the information you’ll need to know about contractions – how to tell them apart from false contractions, how to ease the pain that comes with them, as well as the dangers concerning them. Labour is going to be a long and uncomfortable process, but we promise you, what comes after makes the stress-inducing labour worth going through.
Image Source: iStock
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