Exercise contractions - pain, frequency, symptoms

Exercise contractions - pain, frequency, symptoms

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These contractions are not, as the name suggests, targeted training of pregnant women to consciously prepare for birth, but muscle contractions of the body from the twelfth week of pregnancy.

The most important facts

  • Labor pains prepare for the birth.
  • You are perfectly normal.
  • They usually appear from the second third of pregnancy.
  • They are sometimes uncomfortable, if you experience severe pain you should see a doctor.
  • They can be relieved by resting and warmth.

All kinds of contractions

Women get to know a whole spectrum of contractions during pregnancy: In addition to those for exercise, these include contractions (which start shortly before birth), lower contractions (in which the uterus slides towards the pelvis), opening contractions (which induce birth), press contractions (um to press the baby out of the body), after-pains and also early contractions. What they all have in common is that they are muscle contractions of the uterus.

What is “muscle training” for?

The fetus grows faster than the uterus from the twelfth week of pregnancy. Some women now have muscle contractions. With this, the uterus tests the emergency. In the last phase of pregnancy, some women feel these contractions ten times a day. Then they also go into labor. Forward and lower contractions are also not yet rhythmic like the labor pains.


Some women do not notice anything about the labor pains. Others feel pain in the abdomen. The stomach hardens, sometimes the muscle tension and relaxation are accompanied by hot flashes, and the heart rhythm can also accelerate. Practical contractions differ from real contractions because they only last a few seconds, occur without a fixed rhythm and do not gradually increase. The cervix does not change, very differently than in labor pains.


Many pregnant women think something is wrong if their belly feels hard and hurts in the last third of pregnancy. But that is completely normal. Most of them are labor pains, and they are not a sign of complications, but on the contrary, that the body of the pregnant woman is working.

Differences to labor pains

“Generally”, the “training contractions” often arise so late that the point in time is not unique to labor pains. Only the way remains: labor pains are longer than exercise pains, i.e. at least 30 seconds. They also occur rhythmically, i.e. every five to twenty minutes. If you are not sure which contractions are involved, ask your doctor or midwife.

When and when not?

Exercise contractions usually begin in the second third of pregnancy, but often only in the third and then seamlessly go into lower contractions. Especially women who have had pregnancies, expect particularly large fetuses or even twins, but feel labor pains even in the first third of pregnancy.

Why do they exist?

Childbirth requires maximum performance from the uterus. Most of her time, however, the uterus is like a person who spends his time on the sofa. That is why the muscle “trains” and prepares itself for an emergency.

When to the doctor?

Do you get around ten of these contractions a day? Do you feel a sting in the abdomen or back? Don't these get better if you lie down in between, put a cherry stone pillow on your stomach, take a warm shower or wrap yourself in a warm blanket? Does blood or colored mucus come from the vagina? Then please go to the doctor. The cervix may open.

Exercise or lower contractions?

Lower contractions cause the uterus to lower - hence the name. So the fetus gets deeper into the pelvis. This happens when the birth is approaching, i.e. around the 36th week of pregnancy.

If you have already had pregnancies, the contractions often begin only a few days before the birth and can hardly be distinguished from the contractions. Exercise and lowering contractions can hardly be distinguished, especially since women perceive them very differently. Some only feel a slight tension, others more pain. However, you can help yourself with exercise and lowering contractions in the same way: with a warming blanket, hot water bottle, warm shower and rest.

Exercise or contractions?

The contractions begin in the 36th week of pregnancy, so they can overlap with the "muscle training". Labor pains draw in the abdomen, very clearly; the pregnant woman feels pain in the back and around the groin, pressure on the bladder, and the belly hardens. The pain is significantly greater than in labor pains, which also lack pressure on the bladder and are not perceived as a pull. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Peter M. Dunn: John Braxton Hicks (1823-97) and painless uterine contractions, (accessed August 15, 2019), PubMed
  • Julie S. Moldenhauer: Premature labor, MSD Manual, (accessed August 15, 2019), MSD
  • Roger Harms, Myra Wick: Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2011

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