Recognizing labor pains symptoms helps you know when to go to the hospital. How to tell the difference between real labor and Braxton Hicks contractions.
Women who are pregnant for the first time often wonder what labor pains symptoms will feel like. Labor is the process through which the body prepares the body for childbirth by opening and widening the cervix and moving the fetus into position for birth.
The uterus begins to contract initially, causing the cervix to widen further and, once it is fully dilated, pushes the baby out of the uterus and through the vagina. The main symptom felt by expectant mothers at this point is the uterine contractions or labor pains.
Labor Pain Symptoms: The Stages of Labor
The process of childbirth, also known as labor, is divided into four key stages based on the changes that the uterus and cervix undergo. The first stage is marked as the beginning of labor, and it starts when the cervix begins to dilate. As the cervix widens, the mucus plug that has been protecting the fetus loosens and falls out. This is the usually the longest part of labor, and it ends when the cervix has effaced, or shortened and become part of the uterus wall, and has widened to 10cm.
The second stage of labor is much shorter, and the cervix is completely effaced and widened as the baby begins to leave the uterus. The third stage begins with the actual birth of the baby and is the shortest stage of labor. The fourth stage is the release of the placenta from out of the uterus, and this is the end of the process of labor.
Labor Pains: Symptoms of Labor Progression
Feeling the contractions of the uterus as pelvic pains are not the sole sign that your labor is progressing successfully. It is also important that the following phases are also progressing well:
- Cervical effacement, or shortening and thinning of the cervix
- Cervical dilation, or the opening and widening of the cervix
- Presentation, or the position of the baby as it readies for birth
Braxton Hicks: False Labor Pain Symptoms
It is not uncommon for many women to experience false labor pains, or Braxton Hicks contractions. They are usually felt by expectant mothers in the last two trimesters. Just like real labor pains, they are contractions of the uterus; but, unlike real labor pains, they are sporadic and weak.
If you experience constant, consistent and increasing intensity of contractions, you are experiencing real labor. This is when you should go to the hospital. If the contractions fade, then they are probably Braxton Hicks. Braxton Hicks contractions can be caused by a variety of factors including dehydration or a full bladder.
Alleviating Labor Pain Symptoms
Labor pains can be dealt with natural means or with medication. Natural options of managing the pains of labor include water therapy, massage, acupuncture, breathing exercises, meditation and coaching. Epidurals are the common medical treatment for pelvic pain and involve injection of medication directly into the spine to provide pain relief. Another pharmaceutical option for mothers involves the inhalation of nitrous oxide to reduce the pain.