Houston Placenta Encapsulation

Braxton Hicks & Those Early Contractions

Our B.I.R.T.H series stands for Bringing In Resources To Help. We touch on common things you wonder about during pregnancy, labor, your time with a new baby, and your parenting adventure. 

Braxton Hicks Contractions

Braxton hicks contractions can begin as early as 20 weeks pregnant, and continue on until the moment labor begins when they really gear up and bring your baby into your arms. Pregnancy is a rich hormonal cocktail. The hormones are brilliant because they sustain your pregnancy and link your body and your brain together. Well, it’s these same hormones that send a shout out to your brain going, Hey girl hey! You know that this huge moment you’ve been waiting months for is going down soon. I’m getting ready to help you. Are you ready? Let’s do this thing!  

Most people describe Braxton hicks as a tightening of the abdomen that feels very similar to the cramps women experience during menstruation. Some women are unaware of Braxton hicks because they are subtle at first and not long lasting. Other times, Braxton hicks are totally distracting. You might be relieving yourself in the bathroom, go to stand up, and you have a Braxton hicks contraction and decide you know what, I’m gonna sit here a minute. 

Braxton hicks are totally a normal part of the process. If you experience more than five contractions an hour and you’re not close to the anticipated date of your baby’s arrival or you experience anything that makes your spidey mom sense tingle, you should get in to see your provider.

Those Early Contractions

Honestly, early contractions are such a huge cramp in your style. You know that contractions are one of the signs that labor is near, and that contractions are the magic that is ultimately going to help you birth your baby. But, um, isn’t there like a guidebook or something? How do I know when this means something?  

Contractions start out differently for every woman, and even for every pregnancy that she has. Common birth preparation classes teach the 5-1-1 rule, but there’s usually an aspect of that which goes missing during labor, and we’re going to talk about that in a second.

Most commonly, I see women who start having contractions through the night where the contractions come about every 20 minutes and have a sporadic length of time like 20 or 30 seconds. The contractions pick up over a couple of hours and get to where they seem like they are five minutes apart, they’ve been going on for an hour, and they’re lasting about 45 seconds. At this point, the contractions are totally distracting and the mother wants the baby out now.  Not because she’s in pain or because something is wrong – but because she was taught this is supposed to happen now. Can we speed this up? When should I go to the hospital? (Or birth center)

Her labor is manageable in her mind, and she’s usually not even at a point where she’s utilizing breathing techniques, physical comfort measures, or anything yet. She’s still in a watch Hoarders  and drink smoothies kind of mood. But because she’s been taught that five minutes apart is a red flag and contractions are supposed to hurt, she might be anticipating unbearable pain and an urgency that simply isn’t there. I know that makes me sound like an ass, but I’ve been there, too. Been there, done that. We can psych ourselves out over a belief that was formed from Google, TV, or somebody who couldn’t keep their horrible story to themselves. When, really, this is just a signal from our bodies telling us to slow down and take in the gloriousness of our baby’s impending birth. As birth is near, you get this amazingly wonderful and weird heightened awareness that makes the clouds look as if you’ve been on nitrous oxide all day and you’ve never seen clouds so beautiful in all your life.

The thing that gets left out of the 5-1-1 rule is that the contractions eventually come at 5 minutes or closer and they last for a minute long. 5-1-1 means that the contractions are five minutes apart, they’re lasting a minute, and they’ve been going on for over an hour. At this point in labor, you should have time to get to your place of birth with plenty of time to spare. Obviously, trust your instincts. You know what’s happening better than anyone! If you get to a point where you can’t talk through your birth surges, you want medical pain relief, you feel safest and most cared for at the hospital or birth center, or you simply feel like it, go to your birth place.

How Do I Time Contractions? 

Contractions are timed from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next. Isn’t that crazy? It wasn’t until after I had a baby that I learned this. I thought it was from the end of one to the beginning of the next. Which, honestly just causes panic. The beginning of one to the beginning of the next is called, “frequency” if you want to be super technical. When the contraction starts, you start timing the “duration”. The duration is the beginning, the peak (the super fun part), and then the release.

Point being, you want your contractions to be stronger, closer together, and longer to bring your baby to you.

Many women want to labor at home for as long as possible, which is why I tell you all of this. During early labor while your contractions are forming an established pattern, you have time to rest or nap, go for a walk, catch up on Game of Thrones, or help your kids with their homework. Ok, you know what, if you’re stuck doing common core math homework, I’d probably rush to the birth place to just to escape it. 😉

Do I Have To Record Every Contraction?

Nope. Just like the ways you labor, you don’t have to do anything. You can make a paper record by making columns for time, frequency, and duration, but I haven’t met anyone yet that wants to take a ruler and make perfectly aligned columns during labor. And let’s face it, a line is only worth making if you can do it as perfectly as possible. Kidding. You can write it on napkins, dry erase, your hand, whatever works for you. Or, you can download a timing app to your phone. Visit the app store on your phone and experiment before you get visited by your first contractions. Many apps are free and some of them are really high tech and include graphs or will let you download a file as a momento of the amazing work you did to bring your awesome adorable baby to this side of your uterus.

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