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You have probably heard of them and maybe you have experienced them: preliminary contractions. Also known as practice contractions. And the name says it all: they are there to prepare your uterus for the delivery. Do you want to know how they occur and how you can best deal with them? Then read on!

What are pre-wednes?

Pre-contractions may appear as early as week 24 of the pregnancy. Chances are you will be shocked when this happens or you will think that labour has started. Do not worry, preliminary contractions are quite normal; your body is preparing itself for labour. Pre-contractions are easy to distinguish from 'real' dilation contractions. Preliminary contractions remain constant in strength, whereas dilation contractions become more powerful and intense. In general, preliminary contractions last shorter than dilation contractions. Preliminary contractions usually last about 40 seconds, whereas dilation contractions often last at least one minute. Preliminary contractions do not cause dilation, they only ensure that the cervix is more flexible. Only in women who have had a baby before, preliminary contractions can cause some dilation. 

How do pre-contractions occur? 

Pre-contractions can occur when your little one is moving around a lot or has a growth spurt. Your uterus must then stretch quickly. But also sudden bending, standing up, lifting or a full bladder can cause pre-contractions. Stress is also a major factor in the occurrence of preliminary contractions. Have you noticed that you have been physically or mentally stressed lately? Then take it easy! The preliminary contractions are a signal from your body, so make sure you relax sufficiently. 

Relax. (take it easy) 

The best cure for pain is relaxation. Do you like massages? Your partner will probably want to give you one! A bath, a shower or a hot water bottle can also provide fine relief. Try not to focus too much on the contractions and find distraction in fun things. Read a book, binge your favourite series or take a nice walk. If you really find the pain too intense, you can try to focus on your breathing.   

From preliminary contractions to dilation contractions 

When the contractions become more painful and more regular, contact your midwife. Most likely, the preliminary contractions are turning into dilation contractions. The transition from preliminary contractions to dilation contractions is not always clear, so if you are not sure whether it is preliminary or dilation contractions, do not hesitate to call your midwife. That is what they are there for.


Hentzepeter-Van Ravensberg, H. D. (2008). 9 The beginning of labour. Consulted from

Pregnancy Portal. (2019, November 8). Pre contractions or practice contractions. Consulted from