5 Things That Cause Contractions That Might Not Be Labor

What are the causes of contractions?

Man and pregnant woman relaxing in bed in early labor
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Contractions are the one thing that most people focus on when it comes to deciding what is labor and what isn’t labor. But, simply having contractions is not the same thing as being in labor. You might find yourself wondering: What are the causes of contractions? Did you know that there are many thing that can cause contractions?

1. Vaginal Exams 

At the end of pregnancy, you practitioner might want to do a vaginal exam to do a Group B Strep test or to assess your cervix. Sometimes having a vaginal exam tends to stir up some annoying, irregular contractions. This is particularly true if the membranes were also swept or stripped. These contractions are often uncomfortable to painful. They tend to shift around in length and timing. The good news is that comfort measures you’ve been practicing for labor will often help out.

2. Sex

Sex at the end of your pregnancy can cause contractions. These contractions can be quite intense and painful. Often they subside as quickly as they arrived. Though sometimes they peter out into irregular contractions for awhile before completely disappearing. This can take up to an hour and you may also have a feeling of fullness in your abdomen after an orgasm, which is also completely normal. Speaking of which, orgasms alone can cause contractions, even if you don't have intercourse. This can happen if you're masturbating alone or with a partner as well.

3. Exercise

The bigger the belly and the harder the exercise, the more likely the contractions are to be caused from activity. Quit working out and see what your uterus does. If the contractions continue for more than an hour, call your doctor or midwife while you drink some water. You may also need to adjust or curtail your exercise if this happens frequently, particularly prior to 37 weeks. This can also be linked to number four below.

4. Dehydration

This is a big deal. You should try to avoid dehydration because it can also be a cause of preterm labor. Stay well hydrated. If you think your contractions are coming because you didn’t drink enough, drink water, sit down and call your practitioner for directions, particularly if you are not yet 37 weeks pregnant. Rehydration is the first line of defense for preterm labor, start while you're figuring out what to do.

5. Nipple Stimulation

Whether this comes from sexual activity, a breast pump or a baby – nipple stimulation can cause contractions. There are even some protocols to use nipple stimulation as a form of induction of labor.

Remember, real labor has contractions that get strong, longer and closer together. If your contractions are not progressing in this manner, you are probably not in labor. If your contractions change patterns and do become strong, longer and closer together, reassess, maybe you are in labor! If you aren’t sure, call your doctor or midwife. They will be happy to help you decide.

Still have questions? Take the Real Labor Quiz


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