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Readers Respond: What do contractions feel like?

Responses: 164


Updated March 19, 2009


I am 38 weeks pregnant with my first child... a girl. I have had every pregnancy symptom. Morning sickness was the worst... 3 months of that. Braxton Hicks started at 16 weeks, and now are strong to the point I feel I can't breath. I keep wanting to go to the hospital thinking maybe this is it. Everyone is different. . Maybe this is me!! But I wait, they stop, and I continue my day. I'm due soon and I just want her to come now. This has been an excellent pregnancy. .. but rough for me physical and mentally now. Funny thing is... I WANT to do it again... and I haven't finished my first pregnancy yet!!!
—Guest guest jenn

2nd pregnancy is so different

I am currently 31 weeks into my second pregnancy. I have been having what I believe to be Braxton Hicks for about a week now. They feel like menstrual cramps at first and then my whole belly tightens up and I get shortness of breath. Sometimes they are bad enough to make me close my eyes and breathe deeply until it passes. I don't remember having anything like this when I was pregnant with my son.
—Guest Regina


Contractions were a very manageable pain for me. Had 1st baby in birthing tub. It really helped me to let go completely, and let my body do all the work. The more intense it got the more I concentrated on relaxing and letting my baby come down. I moved towards the pain and welcomed it. The more you welcome it the less it hurts. I had confidence in my bodies God-given abilities. 1st baby was 6 hours, 2nd baby was 3 hours. I'm 28 weeks with baby #3 and praying for a very smooth labor. The worst part was the baby coming out... ouch! But it only lasts a little while. It's totally worth it. I psyched myself out and actually looked forward to my labors. Did Bradley Birth which is the husband-coached natural childbirth. My hubby was an awesome support!
—Guest Arizona

Different for Different Pregnancies

My first child I had intense diarrhea-like cramps in my stomach that came in waves (I have IBS and at first I thought it was just that acting up, until I realized there was a pattern)...my second started out much lower down in the pelvis, more continuous, achy menstrual-type cramps and lower back pain. I kept thinking, are these really actual contractions or just early dilation aches? Bottom line: even for the same woman, your labor can be very different depending on the pregnancy!
—Guest Ashley


Are they the same as they are the first time round? Does labour get easier each time? I'm really scared. My baby boy is due in 8 weeks and I can't sleep.
—Guest Carlee

Every case is different

I do like how this page is prefaced with the statement that every description is different. I often find myself irked when women tell new mothers-to-be "Oh, you'll *know* when it's true labour." This is simply NOT the case for every woman. The contractions I experienced during "true" labour with my son felt exactly the same as the Braxton Hicks I'm currently experiencing - a diffuse painful ache akin to menstrual cramps, very difficult to discern duration or frequency. And I've known many women who had no idea they were in labour until their OBs informed them ("What? This crappy, achy feeling is labour?!). The bottom line for new mums should be: If you are uncertain or worried, consult your doctor!
—Guest Anna

Though I was going to die.

I went into preterm labor at 30 weeks with my first son. I was in labor for 54 hrs with no pain medicine. Buy the time I had my 3 lb 11.5 oz baby boy I was delusional. The pain was horrible & drained everything I had. It took me weeks to get back to feeling like myself. With my second son my pains got unbearable & after several hours of suffering I got an epidural. My labor lasted 17 hrs with him but was much easier after the epidural. I'm pregnant with my third child now (girl) & wouldn't even consider having a Med free birth! I'm going to call ahead & having my epidural waiting on me this time!
—Guest Mrs. Q. Messer

They send you to temporary insanity

24 weeks with my second, I laughed my belly out when I read Jabura's comment about not having known whether it was day or night, and I could relate to that with my first. All I remember was that I lost my mind and I felt like I was chewing sink platters. Hope I don't go through the same horrible pain as i did with my first. Its all worth it in the end.
—Guest Loner001

Ready and waiting

I'm 38+ weeks and 3rd baby. My first was like butterflies in my tummy and the second the pain came on really intense.
—Guest Julie

Not what I expected

My labor started out as just a short 'uncomfortable cramp' really low in my abdomen. I didn't even think it was labor. Later on, I just felt crampy and uncomfortable, so I took a bath. When that didn't help I finally realized I might be in labor. It wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting. I never did feel a 'contraction' though. I was never able to time my contractions. All I could feel was a sharp pressure that just increased with time. It never went away. After 4.5 hours I decided we should go to the hospital just because it would have been too uncomfortable to sit in the traditional position in the car. Got to the hospital and that's when the pressure really got unbearable, but I was already fully dialated and had my son only 20 minutes after being there. The pressure/pain was very excruciating during delivery and it burned so bad when I felt him coming out. It feels like a huge bowel movement and that shocked and scared me. Next time I hope I won't be so surprised by what I feel.
—Guest Kati


I am 33 weeks pregnant with my 3rd child and with my other pregnancies I never experienced this many Braxton Hicks contractions. Not only that, but I get the sciatic nerve pain up the back of my legs, have extreme pelvic pain. I can't even sleep, changing positions is another story. Had ultrasound yesterday and I have not dilated but baby boy is very low. I am thankful for my new addition but am looking forward to it being done.
—Guest Ruby

Strength of A knot

I have 2 kids & about to have my 3rd. Contractions feel like somebody is tying your stomach muscles into a knot with no leeway. They are no joke!
—Guest Lona79


With my first son I wasn't mentally ready at all so when I passed my due date I was fine. when I started to feel the real contractions at 3am I assumed this was all it was gonna be. Boy was I wrong. They definitely weren't like braxton hick it was if me whole body was having a contraction instead of just my big old belly. By 5pm I had my 9lb 2 oz son head size... 15" all at home I am 22 and a week away from having my second son. Praying he will be a mite smaller. The tub does help though
—Guest kayla

Talk about painfull

I am 32 weeks with my 3rd baby. I cannot remember ever having so many contractions with my other 2. I've been getting them for about a month and a half now. I'm continuously getting scared that there real because I'm honestly not quite ready! Anyways my stomach tightens so bad that I get real sharp pains in my bladder area and it can happen 3 times in 2 minutes. I have been told that being dehydrated can cause Braxton hicks contractions, so then I start drinking more water. Its so uncomfortable I could cry. I've been getting them all day since this morning. AAAhhhh I'm going crazy!
—Guest shantel


I'm being induced in four days and as of three days ago I was 75% effaced. I've had bad pains due to pelvic symphysis dysfunction since 5 months and that is why they are inducing. I am confused about whether your belly will definitely tightened with contractions early on. I get really bad back pains that last for what seems like an eternity a couple of times in the last week. I feel menstrual like cramps but they are dull and don't seem to last more than a couple of minutes and then easy up and don't bother me for hours. Throughout all of this pain I don't get the tightening of the belly so I assume its not contractions. I do get separate tightening without pain in other moments....weird.
—Guest Becky D

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