Contractions and what to expect

Contractions and what to expect

February 2015

The prospect of giving birth can be daunting, especially for first time mothers who are yet to experience the feeling of contractions. It is nothing to be frightened about though, it’s all part and parcel of what your body is naturally designed to do. As long as you feel prepared with what to expect, then you should be able to create a calm and fantastic birthing experience.

What are Contractions?

Contractions are your body’s way of pushing your baby out and down the birth canal. Messages will be sent from your brain for hormones to create the chemicals prostaglandins and oxytocin which trigger the contractions. A contraction is your uterus tensing and relaxing. They pass in waves traveling from the bottom of your uterus, although a lot of women do feel the pain in their back. They will become more frequent and intense as your cervix becomes more dilated. There will be a period of rest between each contraction which will give you time to prepare for your next, however, this period will become shorter the closer your cervix becomes to being fully dilated.

False Labour

False labour or Braxton Hicks is your uterus contracting and effectively getting you ready for when you do go into labour. It can occur anytime from about 20 weeks up to actual labour. The best way to establish whether it is false labour is whether your contractions continue regardless of your change in position and whether they become stronger and more frequent.

Here are our top tips for dealing with contractions:


·         Breathe, long, deep and even breaths – try to keep your breathing controlled until your midwife tells you to pant;

·         Find a position that is comfortable for you;

·         A heat pack for your back, or a gentle back massage from your birthing partner may help and soothe;

·         Although difficult, try to relax your body in between each contraction. The tension can often make the contraction worse;

·         Keep your mind on your ‘prize’ – your baby!

Every woman deals with pain differently and you should not feel guilty for needing pain relief. If you feel you do have a low pain threshold, then this is important to chat through with your midwife when making your birth plan as you will be able to perhaps incorporate having an epidural. It is about doing what is right and best for. It’s important to voice all your concerns with your midwife and GP so you feel as prepared as possible for when the big day arrives!    


This blog is designed to give general consumer information for mums-to-be and is not medical advice. Please speak to your midwife or GP for all advice and information.

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