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At 36 weeks pregnant, I feel like my midsection is under assault.
If my baby’s not kicking with a strength David Beckham would envy, I have indigestion. And/or my pelvis feels like it's on fire as it expands in preparation for birth. And/or my lower back is knotted to the point I can barely stand up. On top of all of this discomfort, I am experiencing both Braxton Hicks contractions, and regular ones. Ah, the joys of being pregnant!
Before I’d ever felt contractions of any kind, I wondered what they were like. So I’m here to share how each type of contraction feels, and how they are different. Of course, not everyone has the same sensations. But here is how the different contractions feel for me.
Braxton Hicks contractions
Usually after I’ve done something strenuous, like walk, because even an activity you do all the time becomes exhausting when you’re carting a 6-pound person around in your tummy, I’ll feel my stomach tighten up. It’ll become rock hard, like a granite counter top. After five pregnancies, this still amazes me. I’ll often ask my husband to poke my belly so he can see how impenetrable it is. Um, too bad my tummy isn’t even close to that firm when I’m not pregnant! Ha! Braxton Hicks contractions don’t really hurt, but they can produce some discomfort. It’s mostly just a weird sensation, almost like you're flexing a muscle involuntarily. I consider these types of contractions to be more evidence that your body ceases to become your own when you are pregnant!
I experienced contractions on and off for weeks both with my third pregnancy and this one. But they don’t have a real pattern or get closer together, so from what I understand, my body is just preparing for labor. Still, these contractions are more than just a nuisance. They actually hurt, to varying degrees.
Before I had gone through a pregnancy, I’d heard friends describe contractions as mild cramps, which is a pretty good characterization. Unlike menstrual cramps, they kind of happen in waves, though, coming and going. I feel the cramp along the bottom of my belly, and in my lower back, almost like a band of sensation. For me, focusing on breathing is key during a contraction. I also feel better when I move around. Lying in one position makes the pain more intense.
Last time I was this far along, I could pretty much tell when these sensations were more than my body simply gearing up for the big moment. One night, I awoke to contractions so extreme, I couldn’t sleep, had trouble talking, and was basically overcome by the pain. It was time to go to the hospital. My daughter was born less than five hours later.
For now, I’m just working on deciphering all the different feelings in my body. I’m uncomfortable, but trying to have faith that when it’s the right time for this baby to come, I’ll know.
Photos: Melissa Willets and Flickr
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.