What causes contractions?
You feel a contraction when a hormone called oxytocin is released which encourages the muscles in your womb to tense and relax. The result is a hardening and tightening of your womb as your baby's head pushes against your cervix, waiting to enter the outside world.
So what do contractions feel like?
Women feel contractions differently, but generally they begin as a cramp like a tight band around the top of your womb or something similar to period pains or a mild back ache.
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 in hospital and the contractions become more severe you may want something else to help like gas and air or other pain relief. Thankfully, by the second stage of labour the contractions should become more bearable as you'll be able to push your baby out.