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What you need to know about contractions

What you should know about contractions

As you near the end of your pregnancy, you may begin to experience occasional contractions.

Your uterus practices contractions before you actually begin labor, sometimes for four to six weeks before your due date. These practice contractions feel more like the baby is “balling up”. They generally don’t last long (30-60 seconds), and don’t increase in intensity or frequency. Often if you walk around, empty your bladder, drink water, or take a bath, these practice contractions — sometimes called “Braxton Hicks” — will stop.

You should begin timing your contractions so you can determine if they are getting longer, stronger, or closer together.

Timing your contractions

Contractions should be timed from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next. This is how far apart they are, or their frequency.Your nurse or physician will ask you for this information when you come to the Birthing Center Triage.

Contractions may be timed by using a watch with a second hand, or by using a free app available for your smart phone. Begin to time some of these practice contractions so you will be familiar with timing them when you begin laboring.

While the duration of your contraction, from beginning to end, is important too, we will be most interested in how far apart they occur. If you are having contractions every 10 minutes, or four to six in an hour, and you are less than 37 weeks gestation, you should come to the Birthing Center Triage to be evaluated for preterm labor.

Labor contractions

True labor contractions often include cramping, and may start in your back and move around to your front. The discomfort may even be felt in your groin and thighs. The methods you might use to make the practice contractions stop will not work for true labor contractions. These contractions become longer, stronger, and closer together. They may be accompanied by spots of blood or a discharge.

If you are over 37 weeks gestation and live in Lexington, we usually recommend that you wait until your contractions are 5 minutes apart for about an hour until you come to the hospital. This is so you can use comfort measures at home, and eat and drink what you want.

Once you are admitted to the hospital in labor, we don’t allow you to eat and drink, and give you ice chips and IV fluids. During your early labor at home, you will be able to use early labor comfort measures and eat and drink what you feel like. When your contractions are five minutes apart, you will be admitted, and will no longer be interested in eating and drinking.