You mentioned that you had a C-section with your previous baby, and you really never had many contractions, and your doctors keep asking you (now that you’re pregnant again) if you’re contracting, but you don’t really know how they feel. So what will they feel like? This is a great question, and one that a lot of women have, because they either had C-sections or inductions in the past and got an epidural before they were feeling much pain. So generally speaking, you’re looking for lower abdominal cramping, lower back ache, abdominal tightening, pressure, and sometimes women even have shooting pains down their thighs, or feel like they ran a marathon or did a million squats and they haven’t exercised for 9 months. So if you’re experiencing these sensations and they’re intermittent (meaning they come and go), then they’re probably contractions, and these are the things that you should be looking for.
Now it’s all about intensity and frequency. If you just have a few contractions a day, you feel like something just took your breath away, you have a lot of pressure in your belly and down low, that could very well be like a Braxton Hicks contraction, because, by definition, they’re infrequent and just uncomfortable, not really painful. I like to call them growing pains, because as your uterus grows and stretches you will have some contractions, but once they start to become more regular, you’re noticing a pattern (especially if you’re preterm), you need to take note and make sure that you get checked out sooner rather than later. If you are less than 37 weeks and you’re having contractions every 10 to 15 minutes (which is only like 4 to 5 an hour), it’s time to get checked out. And the whole point of getting seen sooner rather than later is so that we can look at the contraction pattern, check you out, and find out if we can intervene to stop or slow them down at the very least so that your cervix doesn’t start changing as a result of that and causing you to deliver prematurely.
Now once you’re full-term, it’s a different story. Once you’re contracting about every 5 minutes or so, it’s time to go in and get checked to see if your cervix is changing as a result of those contractions. Now that’s just with someone who is planning on delivering vaginally. You have to remember that in your situation, you had a previous C-section, and so I suggest talking with your OB provider about your plan for delivery this time around. And if you’re planning a repeat C-section, the advice the doctor gives you about when to come in and be seen may be different then if you’re going to try for a vaginal birth after a C-section or a VBAC. Based on their knowledge of your circumstances and ability to have a conversation with you about your goals and desires for delivery this time around, they’ll be able to give you tailored information and advice. If you have more questions for me in the future, feel free to ask them on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/IntermountainMoms, and recommend us to your friends and family too.