Courtesy of De Elizabeth

The Tiny, Surprising Thing That Caused My Fake Contractions

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Pregnancy is undoubtedly a time when your body undergoes a ton of changes — and plenty of strange symptoms. It would certainly be ideal if we all came equipped with some sort of psychic intuition that told us exactly what was happening to our bodies and when. But the reality is that sometimes, pregnancy can be really confusing. Who hasn’t turned to Google with a bodily symptom or physical conundrum — especially during pregnancy? (I, for one, have googled “amniotic fluid or pee?” more times than I can count.)

It would be so much easier if pregnancy came with an instruction manual, one that definitively told you if and when you were experiencing a symptom that should cause concern. But unfortunately, it doesn't, so you have to find out the hard way. That's how I recently ended up at the hospital because I thought I was going into preterm labor, but I was just having Braxton-Hicks contractions caused by minor dehydration. Translation: I thought I was giving birth, but I just needed to drink a freaking glass of water.

I’m currently 33 weeks pregnant, and my baby is super active. She flips, jabs, flutters, punches, and kicks on a regular basis — and her favorite time to do so is in the middle of the night, of course. A few weeks ago, I started noticing that my bump would get really hard on one side and kind of bunch up. I assumed that it was just my baby moving around, shoving her butt against my uterus or something to that effect.

Courtesy of De Elizabeth

I’m currently 33 weeks pregnant, and my baby is super active. She flips, jabs, flutters, punches, and kicks on a regular basis — and her favorite time to do so is in the middle of the night, of course. A few weeks ago, I started noticing that my bump would get really hard on one side and kind of bunch up. I assumed that it was just my baby moving around, shoving her butt against my uterus or something to that effect.

At my 32-week appointment with my OBGYN, I mentioned that feeling, and she pointed out that I could be experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, or essentially painless uterine contractions that women experience midway through pregnancy to prepare for labor. But she also cautioned that if I experienced a lot of them in a frequent amount of time (more than 4 or 5 in an hour), I should contact her office immediately.

I had a moment of panic — it was way too soon for this, we weren’t ready, the nursery isn’t finished, and I had like ten billion deadlines that week.

Of course, after I got home that afternoon, I started feeling that same sensation — only this time, it was happening fairly often. After some light Googling, I tried all of the common recommendations: lying down, drinking water, changing positions, you name it. The feelings only intensified, and I started worrying about pre-term labor.

I called my doctor’s office as directed, hoping that they’d offer me some sort of magic solution. Instead, they asked me to come down to the hospital that evening for monitoring and testing. On the way out the door, my husband paused to grab our hospital bag and I had a moment of panic — it was way too soon for this, we weren’t ready, the nursery isn’t finished, and I had like ten billion deadlines that week. What the hell, baby? You still have like two more months to go.

Courtesy of De Elizabeth

As soon as we arrived at Labor & Delivery, the nurse hooked me up to a monitor. A few moments later, she popped back into our room to confirm that I was having a bunch of contractions — more than they’d consider normal at 32 weeks. From there, I was put on an IV of fluids and I had my blood taken to rule out any signs of infection. The doctor on call was brought in to check my cervix and take swabs of the surrounding area (which was just as fun as it sounds, BTW).

I feel better equipped to understand my body, and I feel more in tune with what’s “normal” for me.

As it turned out, I wasn’t going into labor. My cervix was nice and closed, and all of the testing came back normal. The medical professionals on staff concluded that I might have been dehydrated, as my contractions subsided after I went through a full bag of fluids. For the record, even minor dehydration can cause Braxton Hicks contractions, which is why pregnant women are urged to drink a ton of water daily.

But here’s the thing that was confusing about all of this — I’d been experiencing these feelings for weeks, and it was only that day that I'd raised the issue to my doctor. Why was I having these feelings so early in my pregnancy? I mentioned this to one of the nurses, she said that some women just get a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions during their second and third trimesters. She explained that the doctors will always want to check things out if start happening frequently, but that for me, this could simply be my “baseline.”

Courtesy of De Elizabeth

On the one hand, it’s frustrating that every pregnancy is so unique and tailored to the individual. It makes an already confusing time even more confusing; something that could be cause for alarm in one person might be completely “normal” for the next. Can’t I just have a little light that goes off on my tummy any time something worrisome happens? When will someone invent that? But on the other hand, I suppose it’s good to always err on the side of caution and listen to yourself — even if it results in you feeling more perplexed than before.

My experience in the hospital was pretty scary. In retrospect, it was another frustrating instance of not fully understanding what was going on in my body — and I wish I had read an article like the one I just wrote, because it could have helped me be better informed.

Still, I’m glad that we went into the hospital that night to rule out anything dangerous, even if it was frightening at the time. Now I feel better equipped to understand my body, and I feel more in tune with what’s “normal” for me. If there’s one thing to take away from this experience, it’s that it’s always a good idea to call your doctor if you’re concerned about something. At the very least, you’ll get peace of mind.