Training Contractions: How They Feel, How They Differ From Labor Contractions

During pregnancy, any sensations in the body arouse interest and sometimes anxiety. Before labor, expectant mothers sometimes experience uterine contractions, which quickly go away. Read this article to learn how to distinguish between contractions in training and real contractions, what they are for and how to alleviate them.

Training contractions: What are they and why do they occur?

We are talking about false contractions, the precursors to labor. They were first described by Dr John Braxton Hicks in 1872 as a brief contraction of the uterine muscles, increasing in tone after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Therefore, training contractions are also called Braxton Hicks contractions. They may appear during the day or at night, slightly intensify and become more frequent as the term progresses.

Specialists believe that uterine activity occurs in response to a hormonal change in the body. Training contractions prepare the uterus for the forthcoming birth and help you “train” for the real contractions, so that you can cope with the serious load more easily.

At what week do training contractions start?

Usually they start around the middle of the second trimester of pregnancy, from about 20-25 weeks. It may start earlier in primiparous women, in second and further pregnancies closer to the 3rd trimester. At the later terms – after 35-37 weeks the contractions are felt more frequently and may even become real. This is why they are often called harbingers of labor – it is believed that if the false contractions become more frequent, the birth is imminent.

How long do they last?

Braxton Hicks contractions can last from a few seconds to a minute. A single episode most often lasts from 10-15 minutes to an hour. They usually pass as suddenly as they started. The intervals between them are chaotic – there is usually no systematic pattern – this is how they differ from real contractions.

Sometimes the mother-to-be begins to listen to the sensations, thinking that labor has started. But soon the contractions subside, but may return after a few hours.

Training contractions: the sensations

False contractions are usually not painful. But first-time mothers have nothing to compare it with, so they may feel quite strong and painful.

Characteristic signs:

Pulling pain, slight tension in the lower abdomen;

Short duration (lasting a few seconds or minutes);

Absence of severe pain (does not “spill over” into the back, spine).

Training contractions usually manifest as a cramp in a part of the uterus. Some people have commented that the sensation is similar to that of menstruation.

Are labor training contractions dangerous?

There is no evidence of an effect on the development of the fetus. The danger is rather psychological. Women who have had a second birth are no longer afraid of false contractions, while those who are going into labor for the first time may panic. But such uterine contractions are nothing more than a tonus.

There is no need to be afraid if there are no pronounced painful symptoms and the slight tension does not cause any noticeable discomfort. In this case the contractions cannot harm either the woman or the baby.

How to distinguish between training contractions and real contractions

In second or subsequent pregnancies, expectant mothers can easily tell if contractions are real because they already know the difference in sensations. First-time mothers or those in doubt should look out for the following signs to recognise a false alarm:

  1. There is no pain or pronounced discomfort. When labor is really coming, uterine contractions are quite painful, with the pain increasing all the time and sort of girdling, affecting the back. The contractions, on the other hand, are like a painful period. It passes easily. The woman notices that in a comfortable position, after soothing and relaxing exercises the contractions of the uterus stop. True contractions do not just disappear – this is only possible with weak labor. In any case you can distinguish them by their intensity.
  1. Lack of regularity. There are no regular intervals between false contractions. Even if they are frequent and go all day long, it is not difficult to distinguish them from real ones, as their intensity does not increase, they are like a background and do not disturb your normal life. They may stop abruptly. Normal labor contractions appear at least 5 times an hour and get stronger each time, but this is not the case with false contractions.
  1. The difference between real contractions and training contractions is obvious. The former are very painful, spreading all over the abdomen and often to the back. They have a tendency to build up. False contractions start chaotically during the day, in the evening or at night, often after a change of body position or a long walk. However, they pass quickly and their symptoms are not pronounced.

Painful labor training contractions can turn into labor activity. This is normally already possible in a full-term pregnancy. It is easy to recognise this phenomenon: if habitual false contractions become more frequent, do not stop for a long time and go every 5-10 minutes, you are likely to give birth soon. If your contractions disappear or become less tangible, the birth is still a long way off. It is not always possible to reliably know when labor is about to start, especially if you are pregnant for the first time. When in doubt it is best to see your doctor.

What should I do if I have contractions?

You don’t have to do anything – the false contractions will go away on their own. But if the feeling is still unpleasant for you, there are some ways to relieve it:

  1. Take your time to walk. You can go for a walk, or just stand around and stretch at home. But do not strain yourself all day long, as you will have a strong tonus, which is not a good idea if you are still close to the time of labor.
  2. Relax. In the evening or during the day, lie down, read or take a nap. It has been proven that lying down and sleeping on your left side is the best thing for your body when you are pregnant.
  3. Take a shower. The procedure is relaxing and relieves muscular tension. But remember not to overheat – the water should be warm, not hot.
  4. Drink a drink. Sometimes a glass of water or morsel of berries helps. The body replenishes the lack of liquid and the muscles stop getting very tired.
  5. Do gymnastics. Breathing complexes, as well as light exercises for expectant mothers will help to look and feel better. Remember not to make any sudden movements.
  6. Go to the toilet. Sometimes a full bladder puts pressure on the uterus and causes false contractions.

You should not take any medicine on your own. If you cannot tell if the contractions are real or false, it is better to see a doctor

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Author: Paige Jones

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