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What Do Early Labor Contractions Feel Like?

What Do Early Labor Contractions Feel Like?  Info shared by top OC doulas, Labor of Love Birth Services

The million-dollar question, what does an early labor contraction feel like, when it comes to being pregnant. Having taught childbirth classes and been a doula for almost 9 years I really wish that I could accurately describe them for you.

Birth would be so much easier if we could easily describe how a contraction felt and moved through our bodies so that we all could really understand exactly what to expect; however, birth isn’t easy nor that simple.

Birth has so many gifts in store for us and learning to manage the unexpected is just one of them. So, unfortunately, as much as we desire to know how a contraction feels no two people experience them the same.

Labor feels different for everyone!

We come to this moment with our past, present and future selves so HOW your labor unfolds, moves and the sensations associated with this experience vary greatly from person to person.

So, what I have done is collect some of the ways in which our clients have expressed what a contraction felt like to them. Hopefully, this is useful to you as you walk into your own experience:

“I had always heard a contraction would feel like menstrual cramps but I don’t really have menstrual cramps so that always scared me. I felt like I didn’t have a reference point for that. When my labor did start I remember it felt like static in my low back, like nerves firing or that strange pins and needles feeling. Eventually, that electricity-like sensation progressed into full labor pains which were very intense and wrapped around my belly. I can’t explain the sensation exactly they just felt like a tremendous downward motion, heavy and weighted.”

“I had been having contractions for days before I went into full active labor. So I feel like I had a lot of practice. Initially, they just felt like cramping. Like my period was coming. When I was in full active labor I felt them all in my back and hips; a lot of pressure. It was so intense that I couldn’t really move much and had to bend over to feel any relief.”

“I am very visual so my labor pains felt like waves. I kept imagining them washing over me. They would start with a tightening and then ramp up to lots of pressure in my back and bottom and then lighten up again.”

“My labor was challenging. I really tried hard not to focus on the sensations. Distracting myself was my goal and so I don’t really remember exactly HOW they felt. It’s funny how when it is over, you sorta forget. Mostly, they were very painful all across my lower back and belly, like my pelvic area. I felt very swollen and uncomfortable the entire time so my epidural offered a lot of relief.”

“I just remember it feeling like a huge contraction, literally. My belly contracted around my baby and it was so hard. I was surprised and impressed with how powerful my body was. I remember looking down at my belly and just thinking; WOW that is powerful! I needed to concentrate so much on breathing and relaxing in the moment that I don’t remember much else. The pain was pretty intense and local to my lower back and hips and I just wanted to tense up when they came. I really had to focus on relaxing my hands as I just wanted to squeeze my husband's hand so hard during a contraction.”

“I was surprised that I didn’t feel much sensation in my belly it was all in my back and lower spine. It felt like everything was widening beyond their limits (my hips and back) which scared me a lot.”

“My labors were hard as I felt the contractions everywhere. I was quite nauseous the whole time and vomited multiple times in labor (all three of them) so it was pretty all-encompassing. Contractions specifically felt like my insides were being twisted up and smashed. My legs shook the entire time too.”

“My contractions felt like menstrual cramps times 10. It started in the front, cramping/tightening feeling and then moved to my back. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I just tried to stay in the moment and rest as much as I could.”

Generally, labor feels different for every person.

However, there are main threads to expect:

1) You will feel it in your lower back. A baby can’t leave your body and move down your pelvis without causing hip and backpressure. That is just part of the process and this doesn’t mean you are experiencing what is called back-labor which occurs when the baby is malpositioned and you feel the sensations higher in your spine.

2) When the baby is really low, you will have A LOT of pressure in your bottom.

3) Generally, active labor contractions last about a minute long and you will have a break in between.

4) Shaking is a normal process in labor. It’s actually how your body regulates what is happening to you.

As much as it's fun to investigate what others feel and think about their labors, the best way to prepare for early labor contractions is to find a childbirth course that helps you attune to your needs. A course that will offer you a myriad of options for pain management as everyone is different and birth is not one size fits all. Building your toolbox is key.

We have created a wonderful course Connected Childbirth that offers you a mindful approach to birthing. That means we want you to get to know yourself so well that YOU offer yourself the best care possible for this moment. Our course will help you fill your birthing toolbox as you only can!


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