Contractions – is this the real thing?

contractionsThere are two different kinds of contractions. Braxton-Hicks contractions, also called false labor, prepare your body for labor and delivery. Labor contractions, however, signal the beginning of childbirth. If you’ve never been pregnant before, how do you know which is which?

Towards the end of your pregnancy, you may have regular contractions that don’t immediately lead to changes in your cervix or progress to labor. If you go to the hospital only to find out that you are having false labor, don’t feel bad about it. It’s sometimes hard to know the difference between real and false labor, even if you’ve had a baby before. To tell if labor has begun, your health care provider must examine your cervix.

When you first feel contractions, time them. Write down how much time passes from the start of one contraction to the next. Make a note of how strong the contractions feel. Keep a record of your contractions for an hour. Walk or move around to see whether the contractions stop when you change positions.

You are probably experiencing false labor if:
• The contractions stop when you walk or stop on their own.
• The contractions are irregular.
• The contractions don’t get stronger or closer together over time.
Contact your health care provider right away if you are having contractions that trouble you, especially if they become very painful or if you think you are having preterm labor (labor before the 37th week of pregnancy).

For more information on the difference between Braxton-Hicks and labor contractions, click on this link.  Every pregnant woman also should know about the signs of preterm labor.

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