Random contractions in pregnancy can be worrying when you first experience them. When you are seven months pregnant, these contractions are usually just a slight, brief tightening. You might find them uncomfortable, or you may not feel them at all. However, most of the time these contractions are normal and not a cause for concern.
About Early Contractions in Pregnancy
Random contractions in mid to late pregnancy are called Braxton Hicks contractions. Named after the gynecologist who first described them in medical literature, Braxton Hicks contractions are irregular and short, and the uterus softens again immediately after the contraction is over. Braxton Hicks contractions help your uterus muscles prepare for labor.
Time Frame for Braxton Hicks Contractions
Braxton Hicks contractions usually begin sometime between the fifth and seventh month. Some women never feel them, but it is normal to feel them regularly during your seventh month of pregnancy. Braxton Hicks contractions happen randomly, but a change in activity, such as walking if you've been sitting or lying down if you've been working, will usually make them go away.
Distinguishing Preterm Labor from Braxton Hicks Contractions
The most important difference between preterm labor and Braxton Hicks contractions is that preterm labor causes your cervix to dilate, while Braxton Hicks contractions do not, at least not until the end of pregnancy. If you are concerned that this is preterm labor, your care provider can confirm whether your cervix is dilating. However, you can usually distinguish between random contractions and true labor contractions yourself. If the contractions are irregular and do not become stronger, and if they are uncomfortable but not painful, they are probably not true labor contractions.
If you are seven months pregnant and having contractions that do not go away but continue getting stronger, call your care provider. Contractions that occur regularly more than four times an hour, especially if they are painful, could be an indication of an irritable uterus or early labor. If you are experiencing preterm labor, your care provider will advise you on the best way to help your pregnancy continue to term. By the beginning of your seventh month of pregnancy, your baby would have a 96 percent chance of survival if he were born premature after 28 weeks, but he would need intensive medical support for a few weeks or months since his lungs are not yet developed and he may not be able to suck or swallow.
Many women are more aware of early, random contractions during second and subsequent pregnancies. If this is your second or third pregnancy, you might notice Braxton Hicks contractions earlier in your pregnancy, and you might find them more uncomfortable, or even a little painful. Call your care provider if you are in doubt about whether the contractions you're feeling are a reason for concern.