Last night, a sudden discomfort messed up my usual bed time routine with Atlas. I felt a sharp and throbbing pain on my lower abdomen and was so uncomfortable for at least 5 minutes. It scared me! Am I having contractions? DEFINITELY.
I knew needed a distraction so I kept on playing with my toddler (however disturbing the discomfort was), as I patiently wait for my soon to be OB-Gyn sister to attend to my emergency.
So to keep my mind off the contraction and panic, I read about pre-term labor and Braxton Hicks. Yes, this is the second time I have been pregnant but my first with "false labor" as what Braxton Hicks is commonly known at.
"Practice contractions"; "false labor"; "warm-up contractions"; "a fire drill";
it's when the uterus starts to rehearse for the big day as they say. Discomfort aside, Braxton Hicks contractions are harmless and it may actually help to soften and dilate your cervix as preparation for the delivery.
Be warned though, these contractions are sometimes hard to distinguish from "pre-term labor". So it's best that we know the difference between the two.
It is often described as tightening sensation or squeezing together across the lower abs and uterus followed by moments of relaxation, before the next contraction begins.
It felt somewhat like menstrual cramps only that it feels more uncomfortable rather than painful. Although in some cases, these contractions can be occasionally strong and painful. And for anyone who has not experienced labor yet, it could be alarming.
So how can we tell if it’s the real deal?
It usually starts early in pregnancy but we may not feel it until second trimester at around 20 weeks or later on during the third trimester. Most seasoned moms share that the contractions kicked in earlier during pregnancy number two (or three, or four...), and were more intense. Same for me. It wasn't until baby number two that I was able to experience it.
As the pregnancy progresses, it is said that the contractions grow in intensity and frequency, and within two to three weeks of the big day, the pain rises and begins to cause discomfort.
Dehydration / Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) / too much activity.
Here are few things to try:
Change positions. Get up and move around and see if the contractions will stop.
Take a warm bath for 30 minutes or less
Dehydration causes contractions, make sure to drink a couple of glasses of water or drink a warm cup of herbal tea or milk.
Relax, and take slow, deep breaths.
If none of these things work, call your doctor or health provider especially if you haven't reached 37 weeks yet and the contractions are increasing in frequency, and are more painful.
Do watch out for any of these signs to confirm that you’re not in labor or preterm labor:
Increasing vaginal discharge
vaginal bleeding including light bleeding
Contractions every 10 minutes or more often
Increasing backache, which usually will be in your lower back or pelvic pressure, which can't be eased even if you change positions or do something else for comfort
Menstrual-like cramping that feels like gas pains that may come with diarrhea.
Again, always seek your doctor or midwife for advice.
Best of luck to us all, mamas!