What Does A Contraction Feel Like?

What Do Contractions Feel Like?

Will it hurt?

Will I know I’m in “real” labor?

How are labor contractions different from Braxton-Hicks contractions?

You’re not the first one to ask these question.  Every first time mom asks and many repeat mothers do, too!  It’s very hard to imagine ahead of time what the physical sensation of a contraction feels like.  It’s hard to remember what a contraction feels like.  It’s hard to describe what a contraction feels like.  The truth is that they feel a bit differently for everyone.

Here’s how others have described a contraction:

  • A very intense menstrual cramp

  • Your abdomen may become very hard and tight, and this tightness is accompanied with increasing pain and pressure. (Remember, your uterus is a muscle, which restricts and contracts to open your cervix and move baby down.)

  • Deep belly gas that isn’t relieved after a trip to the bathroom

Where will I feel the contraction?

  • Usually, the contraction will be felt in your abdomen.  Some women can literally feel the contraction start at the top of their uterus and radiate downwards.  Some women just feel the pain, and that’s ok.  Some women don’t feel much pain at all, and that’s ok, too.

  • Sometimes, the pain circles from your abdomen around your hips to your back.  This is often an indicator that the baby is traveling downwards facing your belly.  The easiest way for baby to be born is facing your back – this makes it easier to pass under your pelvic bone.  Don’t worry, though, lots of babies enter the world “sunny side up.”

  • Sometimes, the pain travels from your abdomen down into your thighs as baby travels down.

My own laboring has felt pretty consistent from one baby to the next.  

My first daughter presented posterior and with a nuchal arm (she came face up and with her hand next to her face.)  Labor was two days long, stopped and started and I felt a lot of intense pain in my back.  (The shower helped a lot!)

With my second daughter, I felt the contractions only in my abdomen and, while they were painful, were actually really manageable with a deep breathing ritual I developed spontaneously.

With my third daughter, I felt the contractions around my hips and back – and panicked a bit, remembering my first labor.  I quickly got into the birth pool and eased most of my back pain, thank goodness!

And you? Tell us about your labor contractions!

About Amy Lewis

Amy is certified by ProDoula as a labor doula, postpartum and infant care doula and postpartum placenta specialist. She was certified by the Healthy Children Project and the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice as a lactation counselor and is a birth, newborn and breastfeeding educator.

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