Is It Gas or Contractions?

pregnant mom on pain sat on bed

Because contractions are so challenging to describe and can feel unique from individual to individual, it is always a big question mark for people as they try to figure out what sensations they are experiencing and if they might be in labor. 

How to Recognize True Contractions

Although every birth is unique, a common rule we tell parents is that true contractions will get longer, stronger, and closer together over time. We also let parents know that true contractions will continue with a change in position or activity. In contrast, Braxton Hicks or gas will go away with a change of positioning or movement.

We do not talk about enough that it is normal not to know or question whether you are in labor or having contractions. It does not matter if this is your first or fifth baby; sensations can feel different than previously experienced, and it is common for individuals who have had more than one baby to experience prodromal labor.

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What is Prodromal Labor?

Prodromal labor is when someone has contractions that are close together or even in a pattern but do not increase in intensity or lead to childbirth. In some cases, prodromal labor can last for weeks. It can come and go in others, and some never experience it. The good news is that, in most cases, these contractions are doing things to help prepare for labor and can even aid in dilation. Conversely, they can feel incredibly frustrating and confusing to even the most experienced birthing person.

Gas During Pregnancy

Gas is also standard throughout pregnancy and can increase in the last days and weeks. Gas pains are usually relieved by passing gas or passing a bowel movement, whereas the cramps that come with contractions often feel more like menstrual cramps. Another sign to look for is the hardening of your belly. If your belly is hardening as you feel these cramping pains, it is likely a contraction rather than gas pains. And lastly, contractions come and go, whereas gas pain is usually consistently there. 

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When to Call Your Doctor

If you are having cramping that is coming and going with the tightening of your stomach and are not relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement, you are likely in labor or at least having contractions. This is a great time to contact your care provider and tell them what is happening. If you are earlier than thirty-seven weeks gestation, you must have someone check to ensure you are not in labor. Some medications can be given to stop premature labor that your care provider may recommend. 

If you remember nothing else, note that your care provider wants you to reach out if you have any questions about the sensations you are experiencing. It is okay to go to labor and delivery or call your midwife for gas pains. We would rather be safe than sorry and are never bothered by a parent’s questions or concerns regarding their pregnancy and baby.

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