How to Keep Track of Your Contractions
Learning how to keep track of your contractions is an issue that many women worry about. In today's article, we'll tell you everything you need to know.
In order for labor to take place and advance in the most physiological way possible, a woman must have contractions. Contractions are the motor of labor. And learning how to keep track of your contractions is fundamental when it comes to being able to remain as calm and aware as possible.
What are contractions?
There are three different elements that intervene in the birthing process:
- The motor: In other words, the uterine contractions.
- The object of labor: The fetus.
- The birth canal: The birth canal consists of two parts. The first is the osseous birth canal (the boney pelvis). The second refers to the soft and dilatable walls of the tissue leading to the vaginal opening.
In order for labor to progress, the presence of uterine contractions is fundamental. The uterus is a contractile organ, thanks to its muscular layer (myometrium), made up of smooth muscular fibers. Uterine contractions are involuntary.
While a woman is pregnant, between 20 and 24 weeks of gestation, she will experience Braxton-Hicks contractions. These contractions are irregular, have a low intensity, and aren’t painful.
Rather, women describe them as a feeling of hardness in the abdomen. The purpose of these contractions is to prepare the uterine wall for birth.
Labor contractions, however, are regular, high in intensity, and painful. These contractions have several functions:
- The maturation and dilation of the cervix
- The engagement and expulsion of the fetus
- The expulsion of the placenta
- A hemostatic effect (the capacity to reduce uterine bleeding birth by contracting the uterus
If you experience any abdominal or lumbar pain during your pregnancy, be sure to consult your obstetrician or doula. This is very important.
How do contractions work?
Uterine contractions originate in the upper part of the uterus. From there, they spread downwards according to the law of the triple descending gradient, until reaching the lower part of the uterus and cervix.
Each contraction consists of three phases:
- Increment phase. Uterine pressure increases rapidly while the myometrium contracts.
- Contraction acme. This is the point when intrauterine pressure is at its peak. It’s the point of maximum pressure and intensity.
- Decrement phase. In this phase, intrauterine pressure decreases in two stages. First, it drops quickly and then continues to slowly fade.
We can represent uterine contractions using the picture of a wave. Contractions begin when the pressure in the uterus increases until reaching the maximum point of intensity. And then the pressure gradually decreases.
Between one contraction and the next, there is a period of uterine relaxation that allows the organ, and the mother, to relax.
What are labor contractions like?
Uterine contractions are an indication that labor is beginning once they’re regular, painful, and highly intense.
- It’s important to keep track of your contractions in regard to their frequency. At the beginning of labor, more time will go by between one contraction and the next, and they need to occur in a regular manner.
- The contractions should be intense. They generally start off being mild, but intensity increases as labor sets in.
- The duration of contractions is variable. Ideally, all of your contractions will have a similar duration.
Each woman will have a unique pattern to her contractions. Therefore, it’s difficult to generalize and say that certain contractions every certain amount of time are a sign of labor.
What’s more, in order to determine that labor has already begun, there are other parameters that we need to take into account. For example, the dilation of the uterine walls.
That being said, doctors and labor and delivery nurses usually say to watch for 2 or more intense contractions in a period of 10 minutes. What’s more, this rhythm should continue for at least an hour. At this point, a woman can safely consider herself in labor.
How to keep track of your contractions?
It’s important to evaluate the characteristics of your contractions, including their frequency, intensity, and duration. These factors will help you determine when you need to go to the hospital or consult your nurse or doula.
When contractions begin, usually in an irregular fashion, you may want to take a hot shower. This will help to relieve the pain and allow you to relax. However, be sure not to aim the water directly at your abdomen. Massages on your lower back or placing warm compresses on the area can also help to ease discomfort.
If you have a gym ball, then you can try sitting on it and rotating your pelvis in a circular motion. This can help to relieve the pain. What’s more, going for a walk is another great alternative when labor is beginning. Walking can help to regulate and control contractions, as well as help to distract you.
To keep track of your contractions, remember…
Most birthing places have gym balls, showers, and other elements to help you manage to get through your contractions. Don’t hesitate to ask the medical staff about the different options that are available to you.
Remember that uterine contractions are a physiological mechanism that allows your body to give birth to your baby. It’s a physiological pain with a purpose and is nothing pathological. Your nurse or doula will be by your side to help you and will accompany you during every minute as you give birth.