During pregnancy you feel something called contractions. They are experienced as a tension that spreads across the stomach as the uterus, which is a muscle, contracts and 'trains' to push the baby out during delivery.
What are contractions and when do you feel them?
Towards the middle of pregnancy it is common to feel contractions, but you can feel them from as early as 15 weeks of pregnancy. These are also known as Braxton Hicks contractions. This is when the uterus contracts and your contraction is felt from different directions and spreads across the abdomen.
How does it feel to have a contraction?
A contraction usually feels like tension and can sometimes be uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. The tension often spreads from different parts of the uterus and the belly may become hard and push outwards with the tension. Women can experience contractions in different ways.
Contractions are irregular but can sometimes be a little more frequent. If they feel stressful, it usually helps to lie down and rest for a while. However, some pregnant women may experience contractions even when resting. Talk to your midwife if you have any problems or find them uncomfortable.
Should contractions hurt?
Contractions can be uncomfortable but should not be painful. If you feel that your contractions are painful, contact your midwife.
Is there any relief?
Yes, partly through rest, but you can also take a warm bath or shower as heat is usually soothing. You can also put a wheat pillow on your stomach or on the small of your back. Avoid tight-fitting clothes, instead choose something soft and loose-fitting that you feel comfortable in.
What is the difference between a contraction and labour pains?
Contractions are irregular and usually not painful, while exacerbations are more painful and occur regularly. Contractions are similar to menstrual cramps and can feel like a radiating pain in the lower back. Unlike contractions, contractions tend to start at the top of the uterus and spread downwards, and they last longer than contractions do. When the contractions become more painful, last longer and are clearly regular, you enter the latency phase - you'll soon meet your baby!
If you experience contractions and think you are in labor, always call your chosen maternity ward.
Here you can read about all the sure signs that you are about to go into labour.