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What Do Contractions Feel Like?

One of the most common questions for a first time pregnant person is: What do contractions feel like??? Well, one thing I realized after talking to many, many moms is that they feel different for everyone!

Because of that, I wanted to share a post ALL about contractions. Weird? Maybe. But this is something I wish I would have found when I was pregnant with Roy.

(I should make a note that I am not a doctor or nurse. This is purely my opinion and the opinion of other moms included. Please be sure to call your doctor if you actually think you are in labor!)

what do contractions feel like (1)

There are many different signs of labor – losing your mucus plug, your water breaking, lightening (basically when you’re baby settles into your pelvis) and your cervix dilating and effacing. Many of these are hard to know when they actually happen (or happen literally months before you actually have your baby like in my case!) but one of the true signs of labor is contractions.

What Do Contractions Feel Like?

Because contractions feel different for everyone, I wanted to include a variety of stories from moms everywhere. Hopefully this helps when you’re own contractions start!

Jen | Paisley + Sparrow

I’ll start with my own! My contractions with Roy started as something resembling menstrual cramps. After literally 24 hours of cramps that got worse and worse they turned into a total tightening of my whole stomach and back with intense pain that I thought would never end.

Jodi aka My Mom 🙂

“Contractions felt like intense muscle tightening – starting with the front and extending around to your back. The most significant thing I remember is the ‘out of control’ feeling. Baby was in charge and there was no way out other than through it!”

Lex | Restoring Radiance

“Haha oh my goodness, I literally envisioned what they’d feel like FOREVER! For me, I had back labor so it felt like a lot of pressure in my lower back and then when they got more intense it felt like a belt was wrapped around me and tightened really tight for a little bit and then let go!”

Chelsie | Chelsie Lopez Production

“I barely experienced contractions because my water broke first so I went to hospital prior to any contractions. They started me on Pitocin after I walked the hospital for an hour.

I knew I wanted an epidural at some point and anesthesiologist stopped in before I really needed it because he was headed to a scheduled c-section. At this point I was still not experiencing much beyond bad period cramps that came and went like waves – so quite manageable.

They gave me epidural, I had baby maybe 5-ish hours later… I looked at my husband and asked if it was weird that that was “easy”?? Not really a great answer on contractions other than I remember them being waves, so it would hurt but then subside versus constant pain.”

Jenna | @HairByJennaMarkson

“Haha well it’s hard to remember the specifics but I have a thing that happens randomly that reminds me of contractions.

Have had to go poop (even when not pregnant) and you get a sharp cramping pain low in your belly.  It only lasts a few seconds unlike the minute or so of a contraction but it really hurts.

I don’t know if I’m weird or if it happens to other people. So I guess a contraction of active labor feels like sharp cramping.”

Meghan | Meghan Joy Today

I’ve had 6 births (4 of which were at home) and I always remember my grandma telling me that her contractions felt like little cramps. Should be easy enough, right?

Yah… that wasn’t my story. I have had some pretty intense and long labors and while I am grateful for the experiences, my contractions did not feel like some light cramping.

My contractions didn’t encompass my entire stomach either. It was a very low aching pulsation that felt deep and well… painful. As my labor neared the end, it would cause me to make very low noises to help process and work through the pain. It all felt very low and powerful. Beautiful with pressure and intensity.

Monica | Pineapple Momma

I would say that contractions feel like your worst menstrual cramps multiplied by about 100. For me, it started in my low back, feeling almost like my low back needed to be adjusted – just very uncomfortable.

It then wrapped around to the front of my body but the tension was mainly focused on my lower abdomen. It was a slow crawl of increasing intensity as the contracting muscles moved from my low back to the front, almost as if you could envision the slow crawl of the muscles moving.

The pace picked up as the intensity of contractions increased. Getting tighter and more frequent and stronger with each one! My best advice – breathe. Slowly and with clear intent, it will pass!

Angie | Still in Bloom

They are the most intense pain you can ever imagine. Period cramp x100 with the strongest man in the world squeezing your belly and back. Almost like your stomach will explode! And don’t forget about that pressure in your vagina ?

R | Wildfolk Lumber

I just had my 2nd baby last Sunday! To me, early contractions feel like Charlie horses in your abdomen.

Then later, when you’re in transition/about to push, they feel like your body is being ripped/squeezed in half and the pressure of the baby moving through your pelvis feels like you’re about to take the biggest poop of your life that will destroy you forever and also makes you feel like you have to throw up.

Erica |Erica Loeks Photography

It felt like I was going to rip the rails off the labor bed. Literally. The nurse told me to be careful or I was going to rip the rails off the bed.

Becca | Becca Hurt

“I think the big thing for me with contractions, mainly with kiddo #1 and not having gone through it before (natch) was I didn’t realize that it consisted of your ENTIRE abdomen contracting, seizing, muscles screaming. 

I had always (naively) thought of them as an intense version of like PMS cramps—like it would be an severe cramp & pain  low in my pelvis….NOT something that would take over my entire midsection. 

After experiencing them for the first time and having them gradually worsen, it took a bit to wrap my head around it because it wasn’t as I had expected (as to be expected with all things labor/delivery).

Sidebar– one thing that did help me get through them was my midwife telling me that every contraction was one contraction/step closer to baby.  It reminded me of running a marathon, where sometimes it’s easy to feel defeated along the way and that there is such a long way to the finish line, but in actuality every.single.step.matters.  Take contractions as they come.”

There you have it! A ton of different experiences from a variety of women. I hope this helps you answer the burning question – “what do contractions feel like?”!! As you can see, it’s different for everyone but there are definite common threads throughout.

If you’ve birthed a baby, I’d love to hear your experience too! Leave a comment below!

Be sure to check out my 17 items for your hospital bag post (which includes things to leave at home!).

Thanks so much for reading and sharing!

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