Labor is different for every woman, with pain ranging from mild to extreme. Even the experience of labor after epidural varied widely. While some women described labor as relatively painless than they had imagined, others reported severe pain.
A parenting site, Parents.com asked new moms to describe what labor felt like and they got the responses below:
Tamara, St. Louis Park, MN
As a first-time mom, I had a difficult time deciding if I was in labor or if I was having Braxton Hicks contractions. My symptoms did not fit into either category. I had a lot of cramping under my belly, not radiating from the top down or in my back like the books said. When I finally went in to the hospital to be checked, sure I would be sent home, I was told that I was actually in labor.
Angelina, Ellicott City, MD
I was told it would feel like very bad menstrual cramps but that’s not what it felt like to me. It was much more intense and it was almost all in my lower back. Every time a contraction would come, my lower back would slowly begin to seize up. It was kind of like the muscles inside were slowly twisting harder and harder until it became almost unbearable, and then it would slowly subside. It was still much more painful than I had imagined it would be.
Tommasina, Canton, GA
The pain is like having your insides twisted, pulled, and squeezed. If I fought it, the pain became worse. Once I surrendered to and accepted the pain, it was more bearable. It is like getting caught in the undertow of a wave. Being trapped underwater is scary – you can fight it and get more scared or you can just let go and wait until the wave releases you. Also, there was an intense searing pain in my lower back, which was helped when my husband applied pressure to it.
Amanda, Reading, MA
I would consider labor pains as menstrual cramps multiplied by a million. It feels like your abdomen is trying to squeeze out all its contents, not just the baby. They come in waves and varying intensity throughout the laboring process. I would go from a pretty tolerable one to an extremely intense one the next time. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and it is definitely the hardest thing I have ever done.
Michele, Chesapeake, VA
Labor pains were worse than anything my imagination could have drummed up! After eight hours of labor pains I opted for the epidural. I had immediate relief.
Barbara, Fort Walton Beach, FL
Labor pain for me was like really bad menstrual cramps. The breathing I learned in class helped, but it was hard to concentrate because of the pain. Thank God for the epidural – from someone who was not sure if she was going to get it when she first went to the hospital!
Jessica, Danby, VT
My first child was born while I was under the influence of a walking epidural. I did not find that this really relieved my pain but rather made my labor feel like a nasty stomach virus. I swore I would never have anesthesia again because of how awful I felt afterwards.
My second baby was born naturally. I found this labor to be much easier to cope with. The pain was very intense, but it was a clean pain almost like a sports injury. Pushing was more difficult. It felt like my whole pelvis was made of breaking glass, but this passed very quickly and I felt terrific almost immediately after delivery.
Jamie, Canton, GA
My labor was wonderful. I went in for my 36th week visit and the midwife was checking to see if I was dilated. She got a funny look on her face and told me I was five centimeters dilated and 90 percent effaced! I went to the hospital, got an epidural, and four hours later had a baby girl virtually pain free.
Carmen, Hendersonville, NC
Labor wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I was in labor for 16 hours, and it seemed to fly by. And it all got much easier once the epidural kicked in.
Beth, Georgetown, MA
There is pain and labor does hurt, but it was not as bad as television shows or family and friends made it out to be. To me, it felt like a menstrual pain that was more painful than normal but not excruciating. Actually, the worst part was how a contraction would kick in whenever the nurse put the baby monitor on my stomach!
However, a handful of women mentioned that the pain didn’t escalate until their water broke.
Valerie, Clawson, MI
After my water broke is when the real pain started. It was more of a tightening that got worse and worse until it peaked, then dropped off. If I could have had this particular pain once an hour or even once every 15 minutes, I’d have been able to tolerate it. But the fact that just as soon as you get through one contraction another is coming, that’s what wears you down.
Andrea, Trenton, NJ
I didn’t have much pain until my water broke. The pain was so bad that in the middle of one contraction I imagined that I walked away from my body. I tried to picture myself walking on the beach. Of course, that didn’t work and my next thought was of the epidural.
Theresa, Youngstown, OH
At first it was not so bad but after my water broke, the contractions were horrible. It felt like someone had taken hold of my insides and were wringing them out like a wet dishrag.
Most moms said that by the time they got to the pushing stage the worst was over. Some, though, really didn’t like to push and initially had a hard time figuring out how to push effectively.
Cristina, Atlanta, GA
The pain was intense and horrible for two hours while I pushed. It was mostly vaginal pressure that was so painful.
Kari, Onalaska, WI
Labor was by far the hardest physical activity I have ever participated in. But once you get to the pushing stage and have that feeling that is similar to having a bowel movement, you are almost done. And you know that if you can just make it through the last little part, you will meet this wonderful little person you have dreamed about for so long!
Rachel, Avon, IN
Of the pushing contractions, all I can say is that I knew I had to push. And it felt good to push! The only real pain I remember was when my son’s head crowned. That burned!
Tracy Fives, Lake Worth, FL
When I started active labor, I struggled to push correctly. I didn’t understand what to do until my nurse told me to push like I was pooping. I thought she was crazy but once I recognized the right push, and where it felt like it was coming from, I delivered my daughter within a few minutes!
Anna, Austin, TX
I hate to be so graphic, but it felt like I had to have a bowel movement in the worst way! That’s the only way I can describe it! It also felt as if something was going to burst through my back; I had excruciating back pain. I think I felt everything in my back rather than in my pelvis.
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