Most pregnant women usually have anxiety issues because of worrying about labor, when it might start, and the whole experience of giving birth. If you are expecting a child, you will certainly make countless research and studies to make yourself healthy during your pregnancy and prepare yourself for the labor stage.
In this article, we will discuss all labor contractions that you will experience during your pregnancy.
What Are Contractions?
Contractions serve as warm-up exercises for labor and also increase placental perfusion. Uterine contractions begin early in pregnancy, at least by the 12th week, and are present throughout the rest of pregnancy, becoming stronger and harder as the pregnancy advances. Waves of hardness or tightening may be felt across the abdomen of a woman. They may become strong and noticeable in the last month of pregnancy that they are sometimes mistaken for labor contractions.
From the 14th week of pregnancy, the uterus may be felt to be contracting by bimanual examination and by abdominal examination later on in pregnancy but these contractions are weak, arrhythmic, and infrequent.
Causes of Contractions
1. Uncoordinated myogenic activity of individual muscle fibers
2. Increased estrogen secretion in pregnancy, lowering the resting potential in the myocytes and making them more excitable
3. Influenced by oxytocin, prostaglandins, and many more
4. Interaction of actin and myosin that causes the activation of ATPase leading to ATP hydrolysis, leading to the phosphorylation of myosin and generation of the contractile force
Components of Contractions
1. Initiates at the fundus usually near a cornu and propagate down to the body of the uterus
2. Can be described in terms of baseline tone, amplitude, frequency, and duration
i. Baseline tone – the uterine pressure or tone between contractions. The range of baseline tone varies from 0.8 – 2.6 kPa
ii. Amplitude – the rise in pressure at the peak of a contraction above the baseline tone
iii. Frequency – number of contractions occurring over a 10-minute period
iv. Duration – the time in seconds where the uterine tone is above its baseline which may initially be less than 20 seconds but rises to 40-90 seconds towards the end of the first stage and in the second stage
3. Uterine activity affects the uteroplacental blood supply and avoid hyperstimulation of the uterus
4. During the ascending phase of a uterine contraction, the uterine blood flow is minimal and stabilizing after the peak intensity of a contraction is reached.
Types of Contractions
1. Braxton-Hicks Contractions or False Labor – you may start to notice around your 4th month of pregnancy that your uterus is contracting from time to time which is usually infrequent and irregular. This type of contraction is concentrated around your abdomen and is generally painless. You may feel your belly tighten and you may feel uncomfortable at times.
To cope with this situation, here are some tips for you to do:
a. drink plenty of water as you keep yourself hydrated at all times
b. avoid standing or sitting for a long period of time as you must change your positions
c. Stop overworking to avoid stress. Take some adequate rest
2. Preterm Labor Contractions – if you are experiencing regular contractions before 37 weeks, it may be a sign of preterm labor. Along with the tightening in your uterus, you may feel a dull backache, pressure in your pelvis and abdomen, and cramping.
Stages of Contractions
1. Early labor – your contractions are somewhat mild but the tightening you feel lasts anywhere from 30-90 seconds. You may notice some tinged discharge from your mucous plug, known as the bloody show.
2. Active labor and transition – more intense contractions and your cervix will open all the way to 4-10 cm. before the delivery of the baby. You may feel a contraction happening in your body, staring at your back, around your torso to your abdomen and your legs may also ache. During the transition, you’re 7-10 cm. dilated with 60-90 seconds of contractions with just 30 seconds to 2 minutes of rest in between. You may experience hot flashes, chills, nausea, vomiting, and gas.
How to Make Yourself Comfortable During Labor Contractions
From mild to the extreme contractions that you will be facing during your labor, here are some tips to make yourself at ease and comfortable:
* Warm your body into the shower or bathtub
* Walking or changing positions
* Listen to relaxing music
* Massages or counter pressure
* Find ways to distract your mind from the pain (counting, games, etc.)
* Intake some analgesics or anesthetics as prescribed by your doctor
Now we know some details and information about labor contractions in pregnancy. So, don’t panic or worry too much because this guide will definitely assist you through your pregnancy journey. Remember to always consult your doctor and be confident that everything will be alright as you happily await the arrival of your lovely child.