Consistent Contractions at 37 Weeks

QUESTION

Dear Midwife,
I am 37 weeks and have been having consistent contractions for the past 4 days. They typically are 15-20 minutes apart, but some have been as close as 5-7. They do not go away or slow down no matter what I am doing.

I'm wondering if I should call my doctor and how long I can expect this part to go on. I am even waking up every 45-60 minutes at night with them. Can I do anything to get things going quicker? My nerves are shot! HELP!!

ANSWER

The first thing I would suggest is to get a good night's sleep. Often, all it takes is an over-the-counter benadryl.

Second, you might request a vaginal exam at your next appointment. Part of your anxiety is that you don't know what is going on inside or how long this might last. If you find out that your cervix is still closed, you will know that these are just Braxton-Hicks contractions, and you can quit worrying about them. It is way too early for your baby to be born anyway, so hopefully this will be the case. If so, then make sure you are getting well-hydrated (2-3 liters every day, and your urine is clear, not yellow).

Finally, remember that anxiety produces adrenaline, and adrenaline stops labor. So anything you can do to ignore your symptoms and just have fun while you can might prove very helpful. On the other hand, if these contractions have dilated you to 4 centimeters, be grateful--be VERY grateful. You could go into active labor already half done, and have a very nice experience. Good luck!

-- Cynthia, CNM. PhD.

Cynthia Flynn

Cynthia Flynn, CNM. PhD, is the General Director of the Family Health and Birth Center which provides prenatal, birth, postnatal, gynecological and primary health care to underserved women and their families in Washington, D.C. Recently Cynthia served as Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. There she not only taught, but remained in full scope clinical midwifery practice at Valley Medical Center where she cared for pregnant and birthing women, and practices well-woman gynecology, family planning, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Cynthia founded Columbia Women's Clinic and Birth Center, where she took care of pregnant women and infants up to two weeks of age and attended both birth center and hospital births. Before Cynthia earned her CNM, she worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and postpartum and is a certified Doula and Doula trainer.