Labour contractions are the body’s way of preparing for childbirth, and can be a source of both excitement and anxiety for mothers-to-be. Contraction intensity varies from person to person, but most women describe them as a painful cramping sensation that tends to build in intensity over time.
What is a Contraction?
A contraction is a wave-like sensation in the abdomen and lower back that often follows a regular pattern. It is caused by uterine muscles tightening and releasing, which helps the baby move through the birth canal. Contractions typically start out mild and become stronger, longer and closer together as labour progresses. They can be uncomfortable but are generally not painful until you reach active labour.
When Do Contractions Start in Labour?
Contractions are often the first indication that labour has begun. They can start as early as weeks before giving birth, when the uterus begins to practice for the much more intense contractions of active labour. Towards the end of your pregnancy, you may feel Braxton Hicks which are irregular and mild contractions, but they become more frequent and stronger as active labour approaches. You should talk to your doctor if you are experiencing regular contractions earlier than 37 weeks or if they become too strong and cause pain even before then.
What Do Contractions Feel Like During Labor?
Contractions during labor can often feel like a tightening or cramping in the lower abdomen or pelvic area. It is similar to intense menstrual cramps but much more intense and longer lasting, they often get progressively stronger as labor progresses. Additionally, you may experience pain in your back during contractions which usually coincides with the tightening of your uterus. The duration and frequency of each contraction will also increase as you get closer to giving birth.
How to Ease the Pain of Contractions During Labor?
Fortunately, there are ways to ease the discomfort of contractions during labor. Many women find that using supportive techniques such as relaxation techniques, deep breathing exercises and meditation can help them manage their pain. Additionally, your medical team may be able to provide medications to help with pain relief too. Finally, a birth partner or doula can help you by providing physical and emotional support during the labor process.
Is it Normal to Have Back Pain During Contractions?
Yes, it’s fairly common for some women to feel back pain during labor. This is known as back labor. During a contraction, the uterus tightens and that tightening can be felt in the lower abdomen and may radiate down into the lower back. If you are experiencing back pain during contractions, your healthcare provider may advise different positions to help provide relief. Additionally, they may suggest non-medication pain relief techniques such as massage or hydrotherapy.