When is it Braxton Hicks, when is it pre-term labor?
Many women experience pangs and twinges during their pregnancies. All of them experience the phenomenon known as Braxton Hicks contractions, whether or not they ever feel them. With my first pregnancy I never felt a one, so it was much of a surprise--and an unwelcome one at that--to me when a few days ago I was hit with them, hard. BH contractions pick up as the pregnancy progresses, and, in the third trimester, can be uncomfortable and even painful Not to worry, though, they're (generally) totally normal and are basically another way your body is getting ready for the impending birth and baby.
But how do you tell when the contractions you're feeling are BH? Sometimes, they're actually pre-term labor, which all women want to avoid if possible. Having never felt BH contractions before, I was unsure exactly what was going on. My uterus area felt very tight, and I felt a lot of pressure on my pubic bone. A LOT of pressure. Then, there were these very obvious contractions that started--and they didn't stop! That's when I became nervous. After six hours of going on like this I finally called my emergency number. Having been through a pregnancy and labor before, I knew what I was feeling was NOT labor pains, but I didn't know what they were.
Pre-term labor symptoms can be similar to BH contractions, but there are some good distinctions to be aware of that can make the difference between a trip to the couch and one to the hospital. Pre-term labor contractions tend to get stronger and more painful, and, well, lead to regular labor pains. Often, these are accompanied by lower back pain (and not the kind you get from standing all day). Also, any bleeding or unusual discharge should be an immediate sign to call the doctor. BH contractions normally come and go, are sporadic, and go away. They make your uterus feel tight and you may feel some pressure in your uterine area and pubic area. They are generally NOT connected with any sort of leakage or other labor-like symptoms.
Any questions or concerns should lead to a call to your doctor, or, if during non-office hours, a call to the emergency line. The worst that could happen is what you're feeling are just BH contractions and maybe you feel a tad embarrassed.