How To Know If You're Having Gas or Contractions

Tummy troubles are all too common in pregnancy, but how do you know if the discomfort in your abdomen is gas-related or contractions? Read on to find out if it's gas pain—or something bigger!

Your baby can mess with your digestive system. First, there's morning sickness. Then, as hormones slow the digestive process and your growing baby starts to squeeze everything in your abdomen, you may end up with gas, indigestion, and a whole host of other unsavory issues. Truly. When you're pregnant, tummy troubles abound. But how do you know if that uncomfortable feeling in your belly is your baby signaling their impending arrival—or simply your lunchtime burrito causing trouble? Here's how to figure out if you're having contractions or gas.

Signs You're Having Contractions

Labor contractions have a rhythm. "You develop a pattern with labor contractions, where they're coming every four to five minutes and progressively getting stronger," says Paul du Treil, M.D., director of maternal and child health at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans. So break out the stopwatch and find out if the pain is coming at regular intervals.

Your belly tightens up. Labor pains involve a big muscle contraction all along your abdomen. "There's an uncomfortable tightening in the stomach during labor, where the whole stomach feels hard," Dr. du Treil says. If your tummy hardens every time you're experiencing pain, it's likely a contraction, not gas.

There's more happening "down there." Contractions usually come with a host of other symptoms. "Bloody mucus or a change in vaginal discharge increases the likelihood that it's real labor and not a false alarm," says Bart Putterman, M.D., an OB-GYN at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women in Houston.

Young Pregnant Woman Standing Holding Back

Signs You're Constipated

The pain is irregular and sharp. Gas will come and go on an irregular schedule and will often be a sharper pain. You may also feel bloated in your tummy.

You've eaten gas-inducing food. Thanks to the squeeze your baby is putting on your digestive system, any foods can be gas-inducing culprits. And though cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower and broccoli and high-fiber foods like beans may be loaded with baby-growing nutrients, they're prime candidates for loading your belly with gas. If the gas pains continue, consider cutting gas-inducing goodies out of your diet until your baby arrives.

Going to the bathroom brings relief. Typically, gas pains resolve themselves pretty quickly once you hit the loo. If a restroom visit helps, it means that the baby is hanging out in your uterus for a little while longer.

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