Pregnancy is a time of change. The mother’s body transforms during those nine months. The uterus will house the baby, for which it will expand its capacity, a very noticeable growth reflected in the development of the belly. On the other hand, the uterus will have to prepare for the baby’s delivery. This is possible because the uterus is a hollow organ made up of muscle fibers, ordinarily capable of contracting.
When there has been no fertilization, the uterus contracts to expel endometrial tissue each month; similarly, during pregnancy, there will also be contractions, which are the way the uterus trains for the moment of delivery. Sometimes, the mother can perceive these contractions because part or all of the belly usually becomes hard. I was wondering why your stomach gets hard during pregnancy? In the following FastlyHealarticle we will explain it to you.
Why does the belly get hard in pregnancy?
Indeed, if you are pregnant, you have felt that your belly tightens, and the sensation even bothers you a bit, although, after a while, it passes. It is a contraction. When the uterus contracts during pregnancy, it is normal to feel that the belly becomes hard. Contractions are regular and frequent throughout the gestation process, from the beginning to the end. They tend to feel more intense in the first weeks and then in the third trimester. It is also true that some women do not realize this, except during childbirth.
But contractions are not exclusive to the moment of delivery; they occur throughout the entire pregnancy and have particular characteristics at each stage. They usually occur irregularly, with no consistent frequency. These contractions are not painful but can be bothersome when the baby is coming to term. Depending on the intensity, the frequency, the area covered, and the time of pregnancy in which they occur, different types of contractions are distinguished :
- De Álvarez and Caldeyro: also called type A.
- From Braxton Hicks: Popularly known as false contractions.
- Delivery and if they become very painful or are accompanied by other symptoms can be considered pathological.
Contractions during the first trimester
Contractions occur throughout pregnancy. In the beginning, when fertilization has just happened, the uterus that is used month after month to expel the endometrium will try to remove the embryo as well. At that time, contractions are produced that will be stopped thanks to the increase in progesterone, which is responsible for the baby’s nest in the uterus. This process is called the confrontation between the uterus and the embryo.
Usually, the baby will nest, but in some cases, miscarriages do occur, which can sometimes go unnoticed. Contractions at this stage should not be painful; in fact, they should be almost invisible. If they become painful and regular or are accompanied by blood loss, the uterus is probably winning in its goal of expelling the embryo.
Once the embryo is implanted, and throughout the first half of pregnancy, the Álvarez and Caldeyro contractions will appear. These are mild contractions that are often not perceived by the mother, and that are felt in the lower part of the belly, the area that goes from the pubis to the navel. They can occur up to six a day.
Contractions during the third trimester
Later in the pregnancy, the mother is likely to perceive better when contractions occur because the belly becomes hard. In this stage, the contractions are frequent, although they should remain irregular, sometimes more intense than others but without being painful. These are the Braxton-Hicks contractions, which are already the final phase of training the uterus for childbirth. In fact, as the end of pregnancy approaches, these contractions become more intense and frequent.
The Braxton-Hicks contractions will finish preparing the uterus for labor. With each contraction, the uterus, like any muscle, tenses and makes the belly stiff. They are like prenatal exercises that also help position the baby. These contractions appear from the sixth month of pregnancy and generally cover part of the belly. They can come and go, but when they become persistent, more than three in an hour, and the pregnancy has not yet reached the 37th week, it is a warning sign. It will be better to consult your doctor as it may be a threat of premature labor.
If, on the other hand, it is already close to the estimated date of delivery and the contractions are continuous and painful, it may be that you are in labor, so it is also advisable to go to the doctor to evaluate if the time has come. As your due date approaches, the contractions become more intense. These are called antepartum contractions. They indicate that the delivery is about to arrive, and its function is to soften and mature the cervix, producing some dilation. These contractions are not yet rhythmic and appear a few days before delivery.
Then, of course, come the labor contractions, which are regular, increasingly intense, and closer to each other. They begin with a frequency of 3 to 5 contractions every 10 minutes, and their duration is lengthened until they last 60 to 90 seconds. They are very intense and painful, and with each one, the sensation intensifies until it reaches its highest peak in the expulsion. These contractions cover the entire belly that becomes hard and tense.
What can I do to ease contractions?
As we mentioned before, most of the time, irregular contractions throughout pregnancy are regular and should not be a cause for concern. Contractions are usually triggered by factors such as:
- Lots of physical activity, including sexual activity, when running, walking very fast, getting up quickly, or bearing weight.
- They resist the urge to urinate or when dehydrated (pregnant women become dehydrated more quickly).
- Situations of psychological stress, either at work or in the family environment.
- Urinary or vaginal infections.
It is enough to change position or rest a little to reduce the number of contractions on many occasions. The mother can also do activities that relax her, such as taking a bath or shower, lying comfortably in an armchair, and hydrating herself by drinking water or some tisane so that the contractions pass. In case of presenting any symptoms of infection, it is better to go to the doctor.
When to go to the doctor for contractions
Unfortunately, between 6 and 8% of pregnant women experience very strong and painful contractions, which are considered abnormal and which can pose a threat of risk of miscarriage or preterm labor. In these cases, it is necessary to consult with the doctor. It is considered a warning sign:
- Feeling more than 24 contractions during a day.
- That the contractions last more than 40 to 50 seconds.
- That the contractions do not stop when you take a break.
You also have to be vigilant if regular contractions appear with any physical effort or if the contractions are accompanied by bleeding. All these circumstances require the immediate intervention of the doctor, who can order rest and medications to stop the labor if necessary.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to Why does your belly get hard in pregnancy, we recommend that you enter our Pregnancy and baby health category .
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.