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Readers Respond: What do contractions feel like?

Responses: 198


Labor Pain

I went natural birth with my first, who turned out to be 9.2 lbs. My labor was unbearably excruciating, due in part to the L&D staff not realizing that he was turned the wrong way in the birth canal (Left Occiputo Posterior presentation). My transition lasted nearly two hours because of this before someone had the presence of mind to get a triage nurse who made the determination of the position and fixed it. (They were about to give me an emergency C Section). Nothing...no other mom, no Lamaze class, no books or video could have prepared me for the level of pain (and I have a very high tolerance to pain). I remember holding on to the side of the bed and during a contraction, my body and the entire bed shook. My husband later told me I was passing out in between contractions. Needless to say, I had pain meds with my 2nd child...and slept through transition! It was a breeze that time!
—Guest Peachy

Bone-Crushing Pain

I am 25 weeks pregnant with my 2nd child. Very worried about labor since it was a very painful experience the first time around. It felt like my bones were being crushed slowly--starting from the back of my pelvis and wrapping around to the front. This was WITH medication, although I do not believe the epidural worked very well.
—Guest Michelle

Waiting forever

I'm 38 weeks and counting and still find myself asking when will I be ready.
—Guest Karina

Hope to get things started without help

I'm 38 weeks with my third and I'm debating whether labor has actually started. I had to be induced with the other two because I was overdue. As a result I have no idea what to expect if I go I to labor on my own. These are more painful than BH but they are irregular. They feel like bad diarrhea cramps and I get short of breath. Sometimes they're accompanied by back pain and sometimes not. So I'm just busy trying to relax, taking showers, walking and keeping busy. These contractions started yesterday afternoon and I slept through them last night, so they're not THAT bad yet. I'm just waiting to see if this is real or not.
—Guest Heather


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

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