We’ve all been there; you ask your fellow mom friends, “What do contractions truly feel like?” And they respond “oh, you’ll know when they’re real!”. Then you’re left somehow more confused than when you began the conversation. I remember this scenario happening multiple times during my pregnancy and it was frustrating, to say the least.
As VBAC moms, this exploration into the realm of true contractions becomes a crucial aspect of our birthing journey, especially for those of us who have undergone scheduled c-sections or inductions and may have never experienced contractions beginning on their own. In this blog post, let’s unravel the mystery, distinguish between Braxton Hicks and real contractions, and delve into the nuanced sensations that accompany “real contractions”.
Understanding Braxton Hicks Contractions:
Commencing our journey, let’s shed light on Braxton Hicks contractions. These “practice” contractions often present as a tightening in the abdomen, resembling a muscle cramp. They sometimes appear late in the second trimester and many moms experience them at some point in the third. While they can become increasingly uncomfortable and leave you a little breathless as pregnancy progresses, it’s essential to note that, generally, they are not painful.
How can you cope with Braxton Hicks when they sneak up on you? Here are a few tips to consider:
- Hydrate: Dehydration can contribute to the intensity of Braxton Hicks contractions. Make sure you are staying well-hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water.
- Change Positions: Sometimes, a change in position can help ease Braxton Hicks contractions. If you’ve been sitting, try standing and walking around. If you’ve been active, take a break and rest. Finding a comfortable position that works for you may help reduce the frequency and intensity of the contractions.
- Practice Your Labor Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, can help calm your body and alleviate tension associated with Braxton Hicks contractions and, it’s good practice for your VBAC! Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Focusing on your breath can help distract you from the discomfort.
- Take a Warm Bath or Shower: A warm bath or shower can be soothing and help relax your muscles. The warmth can help alleviate tension and discomfort associated with Braxton Hicks contractions.
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to your level of physical activity. While staying active during pregnancy is generally encouraged, overexertion can sometimes trigger Braxton Hicks contractions. Listen to your body, and take breaks when needed. If you’re experiencing frequent contractions, it’s essential to rest and avoid activities that may be contributing to the discomfort.
Distinguishing Braxton Hicks from True Labor Contractions:
Now, onto the million-dollar question: How do we as VBAC moms differentiate between Braxton Hicks and true labor contractions? The transition from Braxton Hicks to real contractions often feels distinctly different. That’s where the “you’ll know when they’re real” response comes from. Because truly, trust me…you’ll know.
My personal experience marked a departure from the tightening sensation of Braxton Hicks to a deep, full, period-cramp-like pain. I was expecting contractions to feel like painful versions of Braxton Hicks, but in my experience, the sensations were vastly different! Contrary to my initial expectations, real contractions manifested as a continuous, dull ache that radiated across my abdomen, I hardly noticed the tightening sensation as I had with my Braxton Hicks!
Understanding the Essence of Real Contractions:
Real contractions, the heralds of true labor, bring with them unique sensations that can help you identify them as labor contractions. Described by many as a profound and rhythmic series of waves, each contraction gets you closer to your baby!
- Period Cramp Sensation:
- As labor begins, a distinctive sensation emerges – the “period” cramp. Real contractions often mirror deep and full cramps, creating a continuous, pulsating ache that signifies your body is gearing up for birth.
- Gradual Intensity Build-Up:
- Unlike the sudden onset of Braxton Hicks, real contractions build gradually in intensity. Each wave grows stronger as your body works to open and expand.
- Radiating Sensation Across the Abdomen:
- The depth of real contractions extends beyond the surface, creating a sensation that radiates across your abdomen. It’s an experience that is pretty unmistakable in the moment.
- Emotional and Physical Synchronicity:
- Real contractions intertwine with your emotional state, creating a unique synchronization between your body and your emotional readiness for the birthing process. You may feel anxious, nervous, at peace, or determined as contractions come. Working through your emotions and fears as you work through labor can be a powerful way to encourage your labor to progress!
- Breaks Between Contractions:
- In the midst of intensity, precious breaks between contractions provide moments of respite, allowing you to gather strength and mentally prepare for the next surge of energy required. Take sips of water, and small bites of food in these moments. These “breaks” are also a great time to repeat some birth affirmations like “I will get my VBAC”!
- Empowering Awareness:
- Embrace the awareness that each contraction brings. It’s not just pain; it’s pain with a purpose. You can do this, you ARE doing this!
Contractions weave a story of strength, resilience, and the determination of a mother. As a VBAC mom, recognizing these sensations allows you to tune into the extraordinary capabilities of your body. Trust in the process, welcome the sensations as part of your unique VBAC journey and know that each contraction is a powerful affirmation of the incredible strength within you.
We’re so grateful to be on this journey with you!
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