Childbirth: types of contractions

When you are pregnant you know that a birth is coming. You’re having a baby and you can’t believe your luck! You soon start to get hard stomachs and in the last weeks you must ensure sufficient rest and relaxation. There are different types of contractions during childbirth. All types of contractions have an important function. And what do the different types of contractions entail?


  • The womb
  • A hard stomach
  • Different types of contractions during childbirth

The womb

The uterus lies in the pelvic cavity and is held in place by bands, also called ligaments. You can think of the uterus as a balloon. The uterus consists of three parts: the body, the cervix and the cervix. The body consists of muscle tissue and muscle fibers. These are located in the length and width of the uterus. The neck consists of muscle tissue, supporting tissue and hard connective tissue cores. The connective tissue nuclei are torn when a woman gives birth for the first time. The mouth is the opening of the uterus. This is closed during pregnancy.

A hard stomach

Around the sixth to ninth month of pregnancy, hard bellies may develop. A hard abdomen is caused by the contraction of the longitudinal fibers of the uterus. A hard abdomen feels like there is a hard ball in the abdomen. This will make you feel the baby less. A hard abdomen can be caused by movements of the baby, a full bladder, the growth of the baby, standing up, walking quickly, bending and lifting. Tension or stress can also lead to a hard stomach. This is a sign to slow down. The baby is not bothered if the mother has a hard stomach.

To combat a hard stomach, relaxation and heat are the right methods. A shower or warm bath can relieve a hard stomach due to the heat. This relaxes the abdomen. Lying down or a hot water bottle can also help.

Different types of contractions during childbirth

A contraction means pain. During a contraction, the uterine muscle contracts and contracts. This feels like a cramp in the lower abdomen. It is a cramp or wave of pain that you feel slowly building up, reaching a peak, and then subsiding again. There are different types of contractions during childbirth.


Preliminary contractions are also called practice contractions. Around the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy, a woman may already feel the contractions. These are the first contractions and they do not have to be painful. These contractions feel like menstrual pain. It can also resemble intestinal cramps. During these first contractions, the uterine muscles are trained for childbirth. The abdomen then feels hard. A hard abdomen is not painful.

Descent contractions

The baby can start to descend from the thirtieth week of pregnancy. This means that the baby’s head sinks a little more between the pelvic bones. Some women don’t feel any of this, and some women feel a stabbing or cramping pain in the lower abdomen. The woman may also experience a pulling pain in the groin. When the baby descends, the head becomes stuck between the pelvic bones, which often prevents it from turning. The baby still has room to turn its body 180 degrees from left to right. From about the thirty-sixth week of pregnancy, the baby can no longer move as well because the baby has grown too big to turn. The baby is getting less and less space.

Dilation contractions

The dilation contractions can start with contractions or with rupture of the membranes, after which the contractions will follow. The contractions may follow immediately, but it may also take a while. When your waters break, you lose small amounts of amniotic fluid. If you smell it and smell that it is sweet, then it is amniotic fluid. The waters can break at any stage of labor. It is therefore not self-evident that this happens early on.

This does not have to be painful at the beginning of labor, but the faster the contractions come, the more painful the contractions become. A contraction lasts about sixty to ninety seconds. Starting contractions occur every four to five minutes. The moment a woman starts having contractions, labor has really begun. At some point, contractions will come every three to four minutes. At some point the midwife will check how many centimeters dilated a woman is. This is called touching. During dilation contractions you may experience abdominal contractions, back contractions, leg contractions and/or a contraction storm.

Abdominal contractions
Abdominal contractions are the most common contractions during childbirth. With abdominal contractions, the contractions feel like cramps in the abdomen. These abdominal contractions can be absorbed as best as possible by relaxing with a hot water bottle, a warm bath or warm shower. Breathing exercises learned during pregnancy yoga or pregnancy exercise can also be applied.

Back contractions
In back contractions, the pain from the contractions radiates to the lower back. Just as with abdominal contractions, heat can also help with back contractions. A massage just above the tailbone or counter pressure can also help. You should find a good posture and let your partner press hard on your back. If you have back contractions, it is better to walk around, stand or get on your hands and knees.

Leg contractions
Leg contractions are very unpleasant contractions because you are less able to absorb them than other contractions. You can ask your partner to give your thighs a firm massage to relieve the pain. Heat can also be a relief. Leg contractions can radiate into the legs in several places. The pain starts from the abdomen and radiates to the legs. It feels like a kind of muscle pain in the thighs.

Storm of contractions
With a storm of contractions, the contractions occur six or more times in ten minutes. With normal dilation contractions you have a break of a few minutes per contraction to recover. An advantage during a contraction storm is that full dilation is achieved in a short time. A storm of labor often occurs when labor is induced. The contractions are then artificially induced. The cause of a contraction storm during an induction is that the body becomes confused because it suddenly receives a lot of stimuli. To be able to properly cope with a contraction storm, you can choose to give birth in a bath. The warm water makes you relax and also ensures that you feel less pressure in your body.


If dilation is at an advanced stage, a woman will experience the urge to push. The baby’s head presses on the lower part of the intestines. The urge to push feels like a strong urge to defecate. If you are less than ten cm dilated, you should not give in to the urge to push. If this is done, the dilation may take even longer because the cervix will swell. When the midwife gives the signal to push, it won’t take long. There are breaks between contractions to regain energy. Pushing takes about half an hour or more to deliver the baby.

Afterbirth contractions

The afterbirth contractions serve as the last contractions before the placenta has to be removed after the birth of the baby. The gynecologist or midwife may press on the abdomen to allow the placenta to come out. An injection to contract the uterus is also possible. After the placenta has been removed from the uterus, it is examined. There may be pieces of tissue left in the uterus that could cause bleeding. They can also see from the placenta whether the baby may have had deficiencies in the last weeks of pregnancy.


After-effects may follow during the first week after the baby is born. This happens when the uterus becomes smaller and the blood vessels in the uterus become closed. Small blood residues are also secreted. Breastfeeding releases a hormone that also causes the uterus to contract forcefully. This happens when the baby starts to suck. At that time the after-effects are the strongest. The uterus will return to its original shape. These are not pleasant contractions, but all you can do is let them wash over you.

read more

  • Pregnancy: growth of the baby from month to month
  • How do you handle contractions during childbirth?