One of the biggest questions I had while I was pregnant was what do contractions feel like and what does it feel like to give birth? I quite enjoyed watching videos of men who would go through a contraction simulator and their reactions were absolutely hilarious. But was it really that bad? While the experience of contractions is different for every person and every pregnancy, this is simply my experience.
What do contractions feel like?
There are different stages of pregnancy and different stages of labor in which a pregnant woman may feel contractions.
- Braxton-Hicks contractions are like practice contractions that help introduce the body to what it can expect when the big show actually arrives. They can occur months before delivery. For me, Braxton-Hicks contractions simply felt like my abdominal area would tighten. They were not painful in my opinion but they were slightly uncomfortable. They happen randomly and usually a change of position or going to the bathroom will make them stop.
- Prodromal contractions are somewhere between Braxton-Hicks and actual labor contractions. Doctors believe that these contractions can help get baby in the proper position for labor and can occur weeks before the actual delivery. I personally could not tell when my baby turned in the head first position so it probably felt like Braxton-Hicks for me. However, I know somebody who described having consistent contractions several weeks ahead of her due date. Changing position and going to the bathroom did not make them stop. Instead, they would randomly stop on their own.
- Labor contractions in the beginning felt a little like Braxton-Hicks at first but they continued to come no matter what I did including taking a shower. I also felt like where I felt the contraction changed. I could feel pressure in my lower back. I could also feel tightening across my abdominal area. Sometimes, I would feel it only in my lower back, sometimes it was only across my abdomen, and other times it was in both places at the same time. It was slightly more uncomfortable than Braxton-Hicks but it still wasn’t too bad. I was standing (doing laundry) and when the contraction would come, I felt the need to stop what I was doing whereas with Braxton-Hicks, I would continue what I was doing. I labored faster than normal (2.5 hours) so my contractions dramatically intensified as I progressed but normally, it would take some time before they get more intense. When the intense contractions happened just before giving birth, they definitely hurt (I didn’t have an epidural but that wasn’t necessarily intentional). It felt like my body had a mind of its own and my natural reaction was to do a deep and low moan. When I was having the earlier contractions, they felt very targeted to my abdominal area and lower back. When I was progressing, it still felt like the contractions initiated in the same area but the rest of my body reacted too. I was quite fit but the contractions would take my breath away and I could do nothing else except try to get through the contraction.
Labor contractions were definitely the worst physical pain I had ever felt in my life and it was like nothing else I had ever experienced. But I would do it all over again and many people do.
Feel free to leave your experience with contractions in the comments below.