Contractions are a tightening feeling across your stomach and sometimes into your back and thighs.
Each contraction’s opening (dilating) your cervix and moving your baby down the birth canal so they can be born.
Each contraction usually begins gently, builds up to a peak and then tails off.
At the start of the first stage:
By the end:
Although they’re usually painful, between each contraction you may not feel much pain at all.
They may remind you of period pains or feel much more painful. Every woman’s experience is different, as the intensity can vary a lot.
You should get some tips to help you to manage your contractions at your antenatal classes. You can ask your midwife for advice too.
When you feel a contraction coming:
Your partner or birthing partner should be there to support you too by:
Breathing exercises can help, and your partner can breathe with you if you find that helpful.
From week 28 onwards you may feel your abdomen:
These are Braxton Hicks contractions. This can be easy to mistake for labour but they’re different from labour contractions as they:
You can find out if it’s the real thing or not by timing them.
Contractions are a part of labour, but do not always mean that the birth is near. Labour is often slow at the start, particularly if it’s your first baby. If you think you’re in labour and you’re not sure what to do, contact the maternity unit or your midwife about your symptoms. They will tell you what to do next. Your midwife may come and examine you at home and help you decide the best place to be, or suggest you go into the maternity unit to get checked.
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10 November 2023