What Are Labor Contractions

Labor contractions are the uterine muscle contractions that make up your labor process; they sometimes get called labor rushes, surges or waves. Any contraction is a process of muscle fibres tightening and relaxing or contracting and releasing; focusing on the relaxing part is a positive way to go.

What Do They Feel Like?

Each woman feels her contractions in a slightly different way. If you listen to twenty women telling their Birth Stories you quickly realize how different we all are. Even if a woman has ten babies most of her labors will vary in one way or another.

Sometimes a wave or contraction starts like small period-like cramps or pains, other times they feel like backache that comes and goes. Some women don’t even feel their contractions, although this is rare. We call this “Silent Labor”.

Contractions of labor resemble ocean waves. How is this? Well, for most women, they start as very small period-like cramps and build up to a peak or crescendo. Then they gradually recede like a wave on the beach, back down to a small sensation and then fade away. Then you have a nice break before the next one starts.

Water (wave/the ocean) is soft and gentle, but can also be sharp and hard at times, this is the same with contractions in childbirth. The main thing is to stay as relaxed as possible during labor.

How Do They Work:

The contractions happen when the layers of smooth muscle around your uterus (womb) tighten and relax at different timings.

Midwives monitor your childbirth contractions by looking at the strength, length and frequency of each contraction. In early labor your contractions might be 20 or more minutes apart, lasting only 10-20 seconds and feeling quite mild. By the time you’re ready to give birth your labor contractions could be 120 seconds from start to finish, with only a minute or less between and feel very powerful and expulsive.

Ways To Cope With Labor Contractions

Some women cope with contractions by counting, either out loud or in their heads. If you know that they are lasting 60 seconds, then when you reach the count of 30 you’ll be half way to the end of that contraction. Knowing that you’re on the downward run is very reassuring. Other women find that imagining they are climbing a mountain with each labor contraction really helps. The peak of your contraction is the mountain peak. After that it’s all down hill.

Your contractions will vary throughout the different stages of labor. Whatever way you cope with contractions of labor, remember that breathing slowly and deeply is going to be your best tool. Breath gives you fresh oxygen and takes away carbon dioxide.

Using breathing techniques for labor will help your muscles and also your baby, as the oxygen you take in goes to the baby via the placenta. Breathing deeply and slowly throughout labor will help keep you centered, calm and feeling in control. Yoga for Pregnancy is a great thing to practice in preparation for natural child-birth.

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