Contractions: What They Are and How To Use Them

Do you know what a contraction is? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on contractions, including its definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What are contractions?

According to Very Well Family, uterine contractions occur close to the baby’s due date, and are also known as being in labor. These happen when the muscles in your uterus tighten up and then relax. The abdomen will harden and soften as contractions happen. Uterine contractions cause the cervix to thin and dilate or open for childbirth and allow the baby to come into the birth canal. There are both true contractions and false labor contractions, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions. While these are painful, they are less regular and not as strong, happening several weeks before labor. The symptoms of true labor contractions include:

  •  Contractions that come every 5 to 10 minutes and get closer together over time and grow in intensity
  •  Changing positions does not relieve pain
  •  Being unable to walk or carry on a conversation
  •  Pain that occurs in a regular pattern
  •  Pain in the pelvis and upper belly
  •  Pressure in the pelvis
  •  Pain in the lower back that radiates to the front
  •  Contractions that last from 60 to 90 seconds and get longer

Contractions feel like an intense tightening, and in some cases may feel like extremely severe menstrual cramps. Mild menstrual cramps that cause back pain, abdominal pain or lower abdomen dis comfort are akin to the first stage of labor. Many women experience these. According to March of Dimes, other signs of labor include a short interval between then a contraction ends and the next contradiction starts, water breaking, bloody show, early labor pain and discomfort with increasing frequency, contractions at regular intervals in the third trimester, a trickle of amniotic fluid, dull ache, and more that a midwife or health care provider can assess. With a first pregnancy, pregnant women may believe certain things are labor signs or standard contractions when they are Braxton Hicks.

Contractions are diagnosed as true labor contractions versus Braxton-Hicks contractions if they are closer together, have a pattern, and last between 60 and 90 seconds, don’t change with movement or a change in positions, steadily get stronger, and can be felt in the back according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Braxton Hicks might occur if you are dehydrated, have sex, or overexert yourself close to your due date. However, if you are having steady contractions before 37 weeks, this can be a sign of preterm labor. Try the below to assist with contraction pain:

  •  If you’re in bed, try to lay on your side instead of your back or change positions
  •  Get on a hands and knees position and practice deep, rhythmic breathing while doing pelvic tilts
  •  Practice rhythmic breathing by breathing in slowly during a contraction and releasing the tension by exhaling
  •  Keep your body moving by walking, swaying, rocking on a birthing ball, or squatting in a birthing position
  •  Practice progressive relaxation by tensing and releasing specific areas of the body, starting from the head down or from the feet and working your way up
  •  Ask your partner to give you a back massage
  •  Take a warm bath
  •  Use visualization

To alleviate Braxton Hicks during pregnancy, you can try the following:

  •  Prenatal yoga that focuses on breathing and preparing for childbirth
  •  Practice with your birthing ball during contractions, so you’re ready for active labor
  •  Taking a warm bath
  •  Low-impact exercise, such as walking
  •  Staying hydrated and remembering to eat
  •  Daily relaxation exercises

Before thinking about labor, take a look at these symptoms of pregnancy from Mayo Clinic. During pregnancy, you may have a missed period. However, this symptom is not always foolproof in those with an irregular period already. You may have swollen and tender breasts, similar to premenstrual breast tenderness. Morning sickness is a common symptoms, and you may have nausea with or without vomiting. Some women feel nausea earlier and some never experience it. You may have increased urination because the amount of blood in your body increases during pregnancy, causing your kidneys to process extra fluid that ends up in your bladder. One common symptom is also fatigue. Less obvious symptoms include moodiness, bloating, spotting, cramping, constipation, and nasal congestion. However, all of these symptoms can also be related to the menstrual period, allergies, or many other symptoms, so it is important to take a home pregnancy test and seek medical care if you think you may be pregnant.

The first trimester of pregnancy, according to Mayo Clinic, has many changes in the body. These are when you might experience symptoms like breast tenderness, fatigue and nausea. In the second trimester, you might get larger breasts, a growing belly and skin changes. In the third trimester, you might get backaches, heartburn and mounting anxiety as well as notice fetal movements.

Many different languages also contain words that mean contractions. You may notice that some of these translations of contractions look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases in different languages that likely have the same root or language of origin, causing them to sound the same. The below list of translations of contractions is provided by Word Sense

  •  Spanish: contracción‎ (fem.)
  •  Swedish: sammandragning‎
  •  Catalan: contracció‎ (fem.)
  •  Portuguese: contração‎ (fem.)
  •  Dutch: wee‎ (fem.)
  •  Bulgarian: контракция‎ (fem.)
  •  Japanese: 陣痛‎ (じんつう, jintsū)
  •  German: Wehe‎ (fem.), Wehen‎ (pl.) (f), Geburtswehe‎ (fem.)
  •  Norwegian: sammentrekning‎
  •  Finnish: synnytyssupistus‎, supistus‎
  •  Serbo-Croatian: контракција‎, трудови‎
  •  Russian: сокраще́ние‎ (neut.)

Overall, contractions are a symptom of labor in late pregnancy. The cervix dilates during contractions so the baby can come down the birth canal.


  1. contraction: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. What Are Contractions? | Very Well Family 
  3. Contractions and signs of labor | March of Dimes 
  4. Pregnancy week by week Third trimester | Mayo Clinic 
  5. Symptoms of pregnancy: What happens first | Mayo Clinic