Pregnancy can bring all types of emotions and feelings. Sometimes it can be hard to know if what we are feeling is really true or if we are simply imagining it.
The same is true for when you go into labor. It can often leave you feeling “am I having contractions” or not.
With things like lightning crotch and Braxton hicks, it can be difficult to know if you are experiencing real or false labor.
I remember when I was pregnant with my first born I really had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t sure exactly when labor would start or what it would feel like.
I only knew what I had seen in films and that was a woman who would usually scream out in pain, then her waters would break and she would be in full blown labor within minutes. This was completely false! Labor is not like this at all.
I was really confused and I kept on looking for signs that labor was approaching but truthfully I didn’t really know what to look for.
So today I want you to be better informed than me and know what does and does not constitute as a contraction.
If you are eager to know “Am I having contractions or not” then you need to keep reading.
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What are labor contractions?
Labor contractions are simply your bodies way of pushing your baby down the birth canal so you can finally get to meet them.
In order for your body to do this, your cervix has to open up and dilate to 10 centimeters. The contractions help make this happen.
Whilst this might sound painful, there is a lot you need to learn about the pain of childbirth!
The more intense and closer together your contractions become the closer you are to meeting your baby.
That’s serious motivation to help you get through labor like a boss!
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Signs that you are indeed having contractions
1. Are you having back pain?
When you are experiencing real contractions you will often feel some back pain. It might only be very subtle to begin with but it will be there.
You could even be forgiven for not noticing it right away because it can be that subtle that it doesn’t disturb you too much.
For some women, you will notice that over time your contractions will start to spread from your back towards the front of your stomach. This is completely normal.
It can be easy to mistake these real contractions for Braxton hicks contractions which in fact are not real labor contractions at all.
Braxton hicks are just your bodies way of getting prepared for childbirth. These contractions are harmless and will usually go away once you switch position.
2. Are your contractions getting more painful?
If you are in fact having contractions you will begin to notice that your back pain will start to increase in strength.
You will definitely begin to start noticing these contractions as the stronger they get the more difficult it will be for you to move around freely.
Unfortunately, your contractions have to get stronger if you want to be able to expel your baby out of the womb.
This is the reason why you will see midwives and doctors monitoring patients to make sure that the contractions remain strong enough.
If your contractions are not strong then they may give you some medication to make the contractions more powerful. Make sure you are fully informed before you go into labor and get yourself a really good prenatal class.
3. Are your contractions getting closer together?
Real contractions always start to get closer together over time.
It a good idea if you want to know “am I having contractions” or not that you track your contractions to see how far apart they are and how long they are lasting for. You find a simple effective tracking sheet in my resource library below.
There are also tracking apps that you can download to do this for you but personally, I love to be able to put this stuff down on paper so I can keep it as a keepsake to look back on later. You’ll be surprised how many happy memories something so small can bring back.
Overall what you are looking for is your body to produce contractions that are strong enough and last for long enough so that you can push your baby out.
There are 3 stages of labor and by the time you get to the third stage (active labor), you should be minutes away from seeing your baby.
If your contractions do not become regular, meaning that they don’t start to get closer together then it is likely that you are experiencing false labor.
It’s easy to think that false labor is just people mistaking Braxton hicks for real contractions.
Unfortunately, it can be a lot tricker than that.
When I was on baby number 3 I was CONVINCED that I was going into labor one night. I remember experiencing back pain and thinking right this is it.
I sat on my birthing ball (which is great for helping to open up the cervix I might add!) and began to time my contractions.
I started out at 10 minutes waited for the next contraction, 6 minutes, then 11 minutes then 4 minutes then 20 minutes. It was all over the place!
I was still convinced though and told my husband to get ready to take me to the hospital. He told me to let him know when I got another contraction. I never did…
My “so-called” contractions had gone away. Whilst I thought it was a “this is it” type moment it wasn’t.
This is why it is really important to time your contractions to make sure that they are coming regularly and that you time them to see how far apart they are.
If you don’t do this, once you call the hospital to tell them you are coming in, the first thing they will ask is, how far apart are your contractions? You’ll want to make sure you have an answer ready for them.
Don’t be fooled by irregular contractions because they can be hard to spot sometimes.
Final thoughts on “am I having contractions?”
Its really important that you keep track of any contractions that you think you may be having, especially if you are at the latter part of your third trimester.
Whilst having one or two of the above symptoms is great, you really need to have all of them work together in order to be able to confirm that you are indeed really having contractions.
You may also have had a bloody show which another sign that you could quite possibly be in labor.
If you are ever unsure about anything, its always best to check it out with a healthcare professional to be on the safe side.
A prenatal class is also a great opportunity for you to really understand what will happen to your body and what to expect once you confirm that you are having true labor contractions.
I can highly recommend this online prenatal class as you can do it together with your partner when it is convenient for you both. It a great way for you to feel supported as you are about to deliver your baby.
I would love to hear about any false labor contractions that you have had in the past. Leave me a comment below!
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