Uterine Contractions

Uterine Contractions

Uterine contractions are the rhythmic contractions of the uterus that occur during labor and childbirth.

Contractions usually start before labor begins, but are not always felt until the cervix starts to dilate. As labor progresses, contractions usually get stronger, longer, and closer together. Contractions are an important part of the labor process and help to move the baby through the birth canal and into the world.

Types of Contractions

There are several types of contractions, depending on the stage of labor and the intensity of the contractions. Generally, contractions are divided into the following categories:

  • Early labor contractions, which are usually mild and feel like menstrual cramps or can be described like a low-grade backache.
  • Active labor contractions, which become stronger, longer, and closer together.
  • Transitional labor contractions, which are the strongest, called “transition” because they signal that the mother is transitioning from early labor to active labor.
  • Pushing contractions, occuring at the very end of labor when the baby is being pushed out.

Signs of Contractions

The signs of contractions vary but typically include some or all of the following:

  • Regularly increasing pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen.
  • Back pain.
  • Contraction of the stomach muscles.
  • A feeling of pressure in the pelvis.
  • A feeling of an intense urge to push.
  • Waters breaking (rupture of the amniotic sac).

Timing Contractions

Timing contractions is a good way to monitor the progress of labor. During active labor, contractions usually start to become more regular and get closer together. It is important to time contractions to determine whether or not labor is progressing. To keep track of contractions, follow these steps:

  • Begin timing the contraction as soon as you feel it.
  • Stop timing the contraction when it stops.
  • Record the length of the contraction, from start to finish.
  • Note when the contraction begins and ends.
  • Note the frequency of the contractions.