Stepping into pregnancy is like entering a world of emotions – all things exciting, and a whole lot of anxiousness and nervousness (1). We know it’s the best feeling in the world to anticipate the pushing-out of a baby human out of you. But, there’s the one C-word that all the pregnant women are afraid of. And why wouldn’t they be? Contractions can make even the mightiest of a woman fall weak, and you’ll see them screaming with pain.
The adorable little finger clasping your big thumb, and the tiny little shoes waiting for your little angel to step into this world full of surprises is indeed a magical sight. But, all good things take time. And with no pain, there comes no gain (unless you are God’s favorite child). And in this case, there’s a whole lot of pain waiting for you, ladies. Sorry, but there’s no way out of this because contractions are the necessary evil that accompanies a baby’s birth. Since there’s no escaping, let’s educate ourselves and prepare ourselves for the C-day. Here’s what you need to know:
In layman terms, a contraction is the compression of the uterus muscle to make way for the baby through the birth canal (2). Not as simple as it sounds. Let’s paint the picture for you. Imagine you’re on your period cramps. Now, make those a thousand folds worse. Well, that’s what your first contraction is going to feel like. It is the process of dilation of the cervix that allows the tiny tot to take position and gear up for his/her arrival into the world. Contractions could be triggered through external infections or they could be signals that your baby is sending you. Either way, you know that it’s the last leg of the game. There are two kinds of contractions – Braxton Hicks and Labor contractions (3).
Braxton Hicks contractions are basically false contractions or rehearsal contractions. These occur when the uterus is gearing up for birth, but they don’t help in dilating the cervix. (It’s just a false alarm.) According to the American Pregnancy Association, these false alarms can start as early as the second trimester (4). These contractions are basically like stiffening of your stomach, but with no pain. There is no method to this contraction madness and they occur at irregular times. That’s a telltale that it’s not your labor contractions.
Since the Braxton Hicks contractions would have prepped you enough, now it’s time for the end game – the real contractions a.k.a labor contractions (5). These contractions occur at specific time intervals and last for a couple of seconds. You can time these contractions for their consistency. Gradually, the squeezing of the muscles start to quicken up, occur for a longer duration and are excruciatingly painful. If your contractions are anywhere between 5-7 minutes apart, you should head to a Doctor (6). If you’re dreading childbirth already because of the pain, you needn’t worry too much. The good old doctors will give you some epidural (a pain medication that will numb your lower body a tad bit). The epidural is administered through a tube placed in the lower back.
Okay, Tell Me Honestly, How Much Does It Hurt?
A Reddit user who had a tough time with her contractions defines them as menstrual cramps that were wrapped around her body like a snake. To deal with the unbearable pain, she had to constantly keep moving and breathing. On the other hand, another mommy-to-be recalls her experience of contractions as a painful one. So much that she couldn’t even speak. The contractions in her case felt like a belt tightened around her belly; so tight that it was painful.
Whether it feels like a higher magnitude of period cramps or like a tightened stomach, the contractions start around the lower back and extend to the hips. Just as the devil becomes stronger before the exorcism, the contractions become stronger and stronger until it finally culminates into a push of the baby.
The Final Call
If you are rejoicing that you have successfully scaled through the labor pains, don’t start the party yet. There are more contractions to come. And this will continue till the placenta is pushed out. Furthermore, the contractions extend till the time you breastfeed. The common factor here is the release of the hormone oxytocin – it is released during the contractions as well as breastfeeding.
Contractions feel like hell, and they even suck the life out of you. But, that’s the nature’s way of helping you from bleeding (postpartum) to death. So, stay strong ladies, because you have a bundle of joy waiting for you.
Contractions may sound like a scary thing but all the mothers have been through that phase and they have made it through. Because, on the other side of this pain, there is so much happiness waiting for you. Are you a first-time mommy-to-be? Have you, or your relatives experienced this pain? Let us know in the comments below.