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Signs of Labour: Contractions and Timing.

August 4, 2023

Signs of Labour: Contractions and Timing. - featured image

Going into labour is an exciting, if not nerve-wracking experience for expectant mothers. Especially if this is your first pregnancy, it is certain that you’ve come across information that has shaped your view on what to expect during the birth and labour process of pregnancy.

Dr. Augustine from Busamed Hillcrest Private Hospital in Assagay, KZN says there are plenty of myths surrounding the early signs of labour and the topic of contractions. “We have the movies to thank for a large portion of the myths, but there are also traditional practices that an expectant mother might not want to introduce into her birthing journey. It’s important for mothers to be empowered to make decisions for themselves as the primary caregiver of their baby.”

Myth 1: Contractions always start and end at the same time

Dr. Augustine says this is not always the case. “Some contractions may start at one time and end later, while others may start at the same time but end at different times. If you are uncertain about how to read the signs of your contractions, turn to the maternity staff and ask them. They are only too willing to reassure you.”

Myth 2: Contractions always get closer together as labour progresses

Some women may have contractions that are close together at first, but then spread out as labour continues, says Dr. Augustine. “Each woman’s body is different and it’s important to understand that common labour milestones are taken on averages, which might not necessarily pertain to you.” Again, Dr. Augustine advises anxious mom’s to voice their concerns to their healthcare team.

Myth 3: Contractions are always painful

“I think we can thank Hollywood directors for making birthing seem like something out of a horror movie. The truth is that pain during contractions differs between women. Contractions can be uncomfortable, they can be painful or then can be both or neither. Some women may experience contractions that are more uncomfortable than painful, and we have a host of tools to help with either or both situations. The most important thing to remember is to talk about pain that you are concerned about and to keep your stress levels managed.”

Myth 4: You can’t do anything during contractions

Dr. Augustine says this is simply not true. “In fact, barring complications, we encourage mothers to walk around or shift positions as their labour progresses.” She says some activities include changing positions to ease pressure, using breathing techniques to calm the mind and body, or even using a birthing ball.

Myth 5: You’ll know when it’s time to push

The final myth surrounding vaginal delivery is that women instinctively know when to push. Dr. Augustine says this may not be the case because a mother might not feel the contractions strongly enough to engage in the pushing action. She says a healthcare provider would likely monitor the contractions and provide instruction on when and how hard to push. “The most important thing is to work with your birthing team and communicate exactly how you feel during the process so that a safe delivery takes place.”

Dr Lynette Augustine

Dr Lynette Augustine

Obstetrics and Gynaecology,
Busamed Hillcrest

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