What causes contractions?
You feel a contraction when a hormone called oxytocin is released which makes your womb contract. The result is a hardening and tightening of your womb which pushes your baby’s head down on your cervix and encourages it to open.
So what do contractions feel like?
Women feel contractions differently, but generally they begin as a cramp, rather like a tight band around the top of your womb - similar to period pains, or a mild backache
Contractions, unlike Braxton Hicks have a regular pattern and rhythm to them. As you get closer to giving birth the contractions will become more intense and closer together.
Coping with contractions
During the first stage of labour, the breathing techniques you learned at your antenatal classes will be very useful. But once you're in hospital and the contractions become stronger, you may want something else to help, such as gas and air, or another form of pain relief. By the second stage of labour you’ll be concentrating on pushing your baby out and focussing on the end result.