During your pregnancy, you may sometimes experience uterine contractions. Having contractions doesn’t mean your pregnancy is due. Learn about different types of contractions to know when to go to the hospital.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions are episodes of uterine contractions during the second and third trimesters. They can begin as early as week 20. However, most of the time, Braxton Hicks contractions start between week 28 and week 30. During an episode, your belly may tighten and then relax. These contractions vary from mild to strong ones. In the 9th month, Braxton Hicks contractions can occur as often as every 10 to 20 minutes.
In short, Braxton Hicks contractions usually disappear with physical activity while real labor contractions persist or increase with activity. Braxton Hicks contractions are more noticeable during rest.
Contractions as an indicator of preterm labor
A pregnancy often lasts from 37 to 42 weeks, measured from the date of the mother’s last period. Preterm labor is defined as labor that occurs before week 37. Before week 20, a preterm labor that results in delivery of the fetus is called a miscarriage or a spontaneous abortion.
When a pregnant woman who is in her 20th to 37th week of gestation has regular uterine contractions (four or more in twenty minutes, or about eight or more in an hour), she’s diagnosed with preterm labor. If you have had regular contractions for an hour even when you are at rest, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Call your doctor if you have had regular contractions for an hour, even after you have had a glass of water and are resting.
Contractions during active labor
Active labor begins as the cervix dilates to 3 – 4 cm. When the cervix is fully dilated and the baby is ready to go out, active labor is completed. Labor becomes extremely intense during the last part of active labor.
During active labor, contractions are intense and frequent (every 2 to 3 minutes). They also last longer (up to 70 seconds). This is when you need medical help. If you haven’t come to your chosen hospital or birthing center, you should go immediately. Your amniotic sac may break if it hasn’t already. If you have taken a labor class, you should have learned pain controlling techniques during contractions. It’s time to practice it.
If you are a first-time mother, active labor may come late. You may be sent home to wait for the real active labor or until your water breaks.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: October 16, 2017 | Last Modified: September 11, 2019