How Do I Know If I’m Having Contractions?

What are the different types of contractions?

The first type of contraction you will experience during your pregnancy is Braxton-Hicks, or what is known as false labor. This type of contraction causes the cervix to become softer and thinner, making it easier for the baby to pass through during delivery. Braxton-Hicks contractions become more frequent in the weeks before your delivery date. You can tell if you are experiencing a Braxton-Hicks contraction if:

  • You feel your uterus muscles becoming tightened at odd times or you get a squeezing feeling in your lower abdomen.
  • The contractions range from a painless tightening to extremely painful.
  • The contractions don’t follow a pattern. They come and go unexpectedly in the afternoon or evening.
  • On the other hand, true labor contractions, which indicate that the birth process had begun, follow a regular pattern, start at the back and move to the lower abdomen, are from 30-70 seconds long, and get stronger and closer together as you get closer to your delivery time.

Are there any ways to tell if I have begun true labor?

  • Losing your mucus plug – Some women give birth only a few hours after losing the mucus plug, while others continue labor for several more days.
  • Your contractions last longer, are more painful and are coming closer together. If your contractions won’t stop or become less painful no matter what you try, then that it is a sign you are going into labor.
  • Your water breaks.
  • You start nesting – If you have this uncontrollable urge to clean and prepare your home for baby, it is a good indication that labor is about to begin.
  • Your baby settles in your pelvis – This process, known as lightening, can happen a few hours or a few days before giving birth.
  • Your cervix becomes softer and thinner – This generally happen is the final weeks leading up to delivery and can only be determined through an examination by your doctor,
  • The opening of your cervix becomes wider or dilates. This usually begins very slowly, with the cervix only dilating two to three centimeters over a period of days or weeks. Once active labor begins, your cervix will begin to dilate more rapidly until you reach 10 centimeters. This is another sign of labor that is detected during examination.

How do you know when it is time to go to the hospital?

You don’t want to go to the hospital too early because during early labor you will probably feel more comfortable at home. So when do you know it is the appropriate time to head to the hospital? The answer to that question is when you’ve timed your contractions and they are coming four minutes apart and each contraction lasts one minute. You should monitor this for at least one hour.


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