If you are pregnant then you will be going through labor and contractions. Labor means the childbirth. Before delivery, the episode of uterine contractions and pain on its own is known as labor. This is the time when the baby is ready to come out by vaginal opening or by caesarian, and no more lives inside the uterus
Some women get severe signs and some do not get such. But all have to experience it during pregnancy. Pregnancy is composed of an average of 9 months which makes 38 weeks but can be extended till 40 weeks. The baby stays these 38 or 40 weeks in the uterus. Some of the women have premature delivery which means they either deliver the baby in the 7th month that is 28 weeks which can extend till 32 weeks.
Labor comes without knowing it. No doctor can tell when the labor will start or when it will stop. There are several indications that can alarm a woman that labor will be started soon.
Signs that show your labor will start soon
Lightening is a term used to define the condition that the baby is coming down and settling in the pelvis. In this condition the uterus lies on the bladder which can make the woman urinate frequent times. Lightening can happen days before labor and can even happen hours before labor.
Discharge of mucus plug
What is a mucus plug? The mucus plug is a thick clump of mucus that accumulates in the cervix during pregnancy. It helps to block the cervix which is an opening to the uterus. When the cervix gets wider the mucus plug passes out which is a sign that labor may begin soon or in a couple of weeks.
It happens just before the start of the labor. The rupture of the amniotic sac and leaking of watery fluid from the vaginal opening is called water break. This happens when the baby is all set to come out. It can happen in either full pregnancy or premature pregnancy. This is called PROM (Pre labor Rupture Of Membranes).
Dilation and effacement of the cervix
During labor or before labor, when the baby is ready to born the cervix opens, which also discharges mucus plug, defined above. The cervix is this condition dilates about 2 inches that are 10 cm. This dilation clears the way and allows the baby to come out.
Before labor or during labor, an episode of contractions occurs that is a sign of the beginning of labor as well. Between the contractions, the uterus relaxes. That causes pain in your lower abdomen and ache in your back which makes the woman discomfort. Contractions put pressure in the pelvis. Contractions start early during pregnancy which sometimes may feel painless or mild and sometimes intense or aggressive. The labor contractions feel like intense pressure in pelvis and uterus which aches your back and radiates to the lower abdomen.
When contractions trigger?
In pregnancy, the episodes of contractions can start early in the first trimester when the body starts adjusting and baby starts developing. The duration for early contractions is 30 to 40 seconds and can be mild. The stretching of the uterus lining and ligaments can cause contractions.
Types of contractions
There are following types of contractions:
1. Braxton-hicks contractions or False contractions
After and around the 4th month of pregnancy or beginning of the 20th week, the woman starts to experience some tightening in the uterus time by time which is called Braxton-hicks contractions. They are usually irregular. These false contractions prepare your uterus and its muscles for delivery. False contractions are mainly painless. But they make your abdomen contract and also make your belly feel tight. They are uncomfortable sometimes. These contractions are called false because they are not aggressive and do not make changes in the uterus as like labor contractions. Their episodes also occur when the woman is dehydrated or tired or feeling anxiety or tension. These contractions slow down if you change your work like drink plenty of water to be hydrated, change your positions like don’t stand too much, sit in a comfortable position, don’t walk too much, and rest on your comfortable side most preferably on the left side.
2. True or preterm labor contractions
Frequent or regular contractions that begin in the 37th week are preterm labor contractions. These are regular contractions and occur by the time, like if you have a contraction every 10 mins then your labor will start soon. These contractions are stronger and more intense and get serious and aggressive by the time, and increase with the activity. They make your abdomen hard and make your uterus tight. They cause pain in your back, tight pressure in your pelvis, and cramps occur.
With these preterm labor contractions, water break, lightening, dilation, and effacement also occurs which gives alarm that it may be the right time to call your doctor. There are multiple risk factors which can also cause early preterm labor contractions:
- Smoking or any drug use
- Multiple pregnancies like twins, triplets, etc
- High stress and anxiety level
- Infections in uterus, cervix or vagina
- Abnormal conditions of placenta or uterus.
- Underweight or overweight pregnancy.
- History of premature delivery
- Not doing proper prenatal care
It is necessary to notice your contractions and time of true contractions because unlike false contractions these get stronger and their duration is longer than false contractions and can not be overcome by drinking water or changing position.
What are the stages of true labor contractions?
True or preterm labor contractions differ from false contractions. They do not slow down but increase with the time, get stronger and longer in duration. These contractions prepare the body for delivering the baby and also dilates the cervix.
Early Labor or First Stage
- In this stage, the contractions occur for 30 to 40 seconds with mild pain.
- These might be organized and regular and can occur 5 to 20 mins apart.
- In this stage, the cervix starts to open and dilates about 3 cm that is 1.2 inches.
- Slow or little mucus discharge can also be experienced. Sometimes with a bloody show.
- This feels like lower abdominal pain, menstrual cramps, and pressure in the pelvis.
- It lasts about many hours or several days
Active Labor or Second Stage
- In this stage, contractions become more strong and intense as compared to the early stages.
- These contractions occur for 1 minute to 70 seconds.
- These are regular contractions that occur with 3 to 5 minutes apart.
- The cervix will open up to 4 cm to 7 cm that is 1.6 inches.
- These contractions radiate around the body with ache and legs cramp and unable to move.
- The woman feels restless in this stage.
- It lasts for about 3 to 5 hours.
- Sometimes it is the right time to go to the hospital before water bag break.
- In this stage, the cervix dilates about 7 to 10 cm that is 2 inches.
- The contractions occur for 90 seconds with 30 seconds of rest in between.
- These contractions occur 2 minutes apart.
- The strength of these contractions is vert strong and full intense.
- These feel like hot flashes, chills, nausea, lightheadedness, gas, pressure on the rectum, and releasing pressure from the bowel.
- With these contractions, the body is ready to push.
- This is the right time to rush the hospital because water broke happens in this condition and this means that baby is ready to come out of the body.
- It lasts for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
The right time to push is once the cervix is fully dilated and the vaginal opening is ready and clear to push out the baby. Pushing time is different for every woman. Some women push for less than an hour and quickly delivers the baby and some women can push for about 3 hours.
When a woman is unable to push and the cervix is not fully dilated than doctors prefer and proceed towards the cesarean or C section which means delivering the baby with the help of surgery. This is preferred when delivering baby with the vagina develops risk for the mother and the baby.