Stages of Labor 
  

Contractions - Pre or True Labor


Braxton Hicks - Practice or Real True Labor

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Contractions

  
The first time a woman is pregnant is often marked by questions and concerns of: How will I know when I am in labor? What is labor like? How long will it last? What will it feel like? How can I cope? Women who have given birth before have a better idea of what to expect. If you have never experienced labor before, you may find it difficult to know if you are in labor.

Braxton Hicks, False or Practice Labor Contractions
These contractions can be described as a tightening of the abdominal area ...       ... more
  • Usually are irregular and short
  • Not painful though - just uncomfortable
  • Do not get longer, stronger, or closer together
  • Can last several minutes in length
  • Walking does not make them stronger, may even cause them to stop
  • Lying down may make them go away
  • May be felt more in the front area and in the groin area
  • Or contractions begin in the back, but they do not move to the front
  • Beneficial in preparation for true labor
  • Cervix - Very little change or no change; does not thin or open
True Labor Contractions ...       ... more
  • May be irregular at first and usually become regular
  • Get longer, stronger, and closer together as time progresses
  • Walking usually makes them stronger
  • Lying down does not make them go away
  • Contractions begin at the cervix, move up and around to the back
  • Often they begin in your back and move to the front
  • Cervix - Changes by becoming thinner and starts to open (dilates)
Prodromal Labor Contractions
Often in the past prodromal labor has been given called 'false labor', yet every woman experiencing it has said in frustration "There's nothing false about what I'm feeling!" ...       ... more
  • Prodromal labor can feel very much like active labor, yet is not consistently progressive
  • Prodromal labor contractions may begin hours or even days before active labor
  • They may feel like Braxton Hicks contractions or they may be quite a bit stronger
  • They are irregular in length, frequency and intensity
  • They may or may not be affected by your activity
  • Cervix - Your cervix may begin to dilate, you may lose your mucous plug
You have probably heard of friends or family members who have gone to the hospital only to be sent home again. This can make a woman who is waiting for childbirth, very agitated especially if they are past their expected due date.

Before heading to the hospital, call your physician or midwife to discuss your labor symptoms.

It is common for first time mothers to make more than one trip to the hospital. If you are in early labor and sent home, the following activities may be helpful: go to the mall or a museum, hit the beach, catch a movie, go for a walk, take a shower, rest, drink plenty of fluids, listening to music, etc.

If your waters break or you lose your mucous plug,
call your physician or midwife to discuss your labor symptoms.
 
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Over the last few weeks of pregnancy, the cervix has been gradually ripening and softening. Uterine contractions are occurring during this time. Some may be strong, some barely noticeable, but each is preparing your body for the actual onset of labor.

Labor is divided into three distinct stages. In the first stage one labor, the cervix dilates (opens) and effaces (thins), allowing the descent of the baby toward birth. During second stage of labor, the baby passes through the birth canal and is born. The third stage of labor involves the delivery of the placenta. These stages are not equal in time or intensity and every birth will follow its own pattern.

- Easy to use Contractions Timer with contractions log print out.

 



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Braxton Hicks, False or Practice Labor

  
Braxton Hicks contractions are contractions that prepare your body for the work that is ahead. This type of contraction can be thought of as an exercise contraction. If your body did not prepare itself with Braxton Hicks contractions, labor would be longer, more painful and overall not as productive in pushing out a baby.
  • Usually are irregular and short
  • Not painful though - just uncomfortable
  • Do not get longer, stronger, or closer together
  • Can last several minutes in length
  • Walking does not make them stronger, may even cause them to stop
  • Lying down may make them go away
  • May be felt more in the front area and in the groin area
  • Or contractions begin in the back, but they do not move to the front
  • Beneficial in preparation for true labor
  • Cervix - Very little change or no change; does not thin or open
Most women will begin experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions around the 5th - 7th month and they may well continue until delivery. These contractions can be described as a tightening of the abdominal area, but are usually not painful. However, as you near your due date these contractions could well become more powerful and may begin to feel uncomfortable.

After an orgasm you may experience stronger Braxton Hicks contractions and you may experience some cramping, this is perfectly normal. During the fourth and fifth month, you may notice your uterus knotting up in a little ball after an orgasm which is very normal.

If you are experiencing pain with the Braxton Hicks contractions, it is more likely to be the ligaments pulling than the actual 'exercise contraction' that is causing the pain. When ligaments stretch, and, especially in first-time pregnancies, it can cause a burning, pulling sensation on the sides of the abdomen. If your contractions are painful and you are near the 40th week of your pregnancy, you may be experiencing true contractions.
 
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True Labor

  
True labor contractions become stronger, difficult to talk through, last longer, and are closer together as labor progresses. These will effect changes in the cervix, causing it to thin out and open while encouraging the descent of the baby through the pelvis.
  • May be irregular at first and usually become regular
  • Get longer, stronger, and closer together as time progresses
  • Walking usually makes them stronger
  • Lying down does not make them go away
  • Contractions begin at the cervix, move up and around to the back
  • Often they begin in your back and move to the front
  • Cervix - Changes by becoming thinner and starts to open (dilates)
If you are in true labor, contractions will begin somewhere between the 38th - 42nd week of pregnancy, but usually somewhere around the 40th.

Some women lose their mucus plugs and then their labor begins. Others, may have their water break after losing their mucus plug and then labor begins. Then you will have those women whose labor just begins without any previous signs.

If your waters break or you lose your mucous plug, call your physician or midwife to discuss
your labor symptoms before you go to the hospital, as you may, only to be sent home again.

Once your contractions are about 5 to 20 minutes apart and they are staying even if you walk around or lay on your left side, labor has begun! This may be the time to get to the hospital. Remember if you live far away from your hospital tell your doctor. They may want you to come when your contractions are around 10 or 15 minutes apart.

- Easy to use Contractions Timer with contractions log print out.

 
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Prodromal Labor

  
Often in the past prodromal labor has been called 'false labor', yet every woman experiencing it has said in frustration "There's nothing false about what I'm feeling!" It may feel like "the real thing" when really, it's just nature's way of prepping your body for the real thing.

Prodromal labor isn't all in vain; it is doing some very important work to your body. It is conditioning your uterus, and getting your cervix all ready to go! These contractions that seem to go on forever are working hard to make the 'real' labor shorter and easier.
  • Prodromal labor can feel very much like active labor, yet is not consistently progressive
  • Prodromal labor contractions may begin hours or even days before active labor
  • They may feel like Braxton Hicks contractions or they may be quite a bit stronger
  • They are usually irregular in length, frequency and intensity
  • The main thing to look out for is frequency and if they are getting stronger as the time goes on
  • If so, then you may just be seeing a baby soon
  • If not, have faith that you WILL give birth sooner or later
  • They may or may not be affected by your activity
Let your body do it's job and try to distract yourself with a movie, go for a walk, take a shower, rest, drink plenty of fluids, listen to music or something else that will keep your mind off things.
  • Cervix - Your cervix may begin to dilate, you may lose your mucous plug
Prodromal labor is usually managable and it does not require the same attention that active labor requires. You could still go about your day, but you are really encouraged to rest up for the big event. Think of it this way. The more work your body does now, the less work it will have to do in active labor.

You have probably heard of friends or family members who have gone to the hospital only to be sent home again. This can make a woman who is waiting for childbirth, very agitated especially if they are past their expected due date.

- Before heading to the hospital, call your physician or midwife to discuss your labor symptoms.

- Easy to use Contractions Timer with contractions log print out.

 
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