Contraction Pain Described by Real Moms

I think it’s about time we had THE talk. You are now a few months into your pregnancy, and you are starting to think:

How am I going to get this baby out of me!? How does it feel?! Can I survive the pain?!

I am here to tell you that baby will get out, but it’s going to be very painful and one of the most memorable moments of your life. For a while, you are going to think back on it as miserable, then bittersweet, and eventually, it becomes somewhat of a fond memory.

Fond memory?!

Yes, your mind has a way of tricking you. Your mind may be so good at tricking you; having another child may even start to sound like a good idea. I know its crazy, but it happens.

The one thing that most women can agree on is that you go through the most intense pain, but out of that pain comes a beautiful baby, and you kind of forget the pain as time passes. This is kind of crazy because, during labor, you feel like the pain will never go away, let alone be a memory.

For many women, labor is almost hard to describe because of their Jedi minds – blocking out the memory of the pain.

However, I spoke to several women to find out what contractions felt like for them, and many describe it in similar ways. The pain is inevitable, sorry! Every mom’s experience is unique, with similarities.

Then there are a lucky few who felt pain, but it was not as bad as they thought. I am jealous of those ladies; for me, I felt the intense, excruciating pain for the majority of my labor. My water broke, and I was infused with Pitocin, which, for me, meant lots of pain the entire duration.

Many ladies who started contracting (their water did not break until later) said the initial pain was bearable, and then during active labor, it got terrible.

Just so you know, what I am about to describe is the feedback from several women who have given birth – not a medical study or anything like that. If you want more of a medical explanation of the pain, ask your doctor.


Before we get into the details of all the pain, I am writing this because, during my pregnancy, I always asked:

How does a contraction feel?

But I never got a quality answer from a doctor or from anyone in the classes I took. That is why I want to provide all the curious women out there some idea of what they will be dealing with.

I do not want to scare you or add fuel to any anxiety you may be having. So if this is not something you are prepared to read, then I have some other articles you can look into on different topics.

If you do read on, know these are other women’s experiences; yours may be similar or different. You won’t know until you give birth yourself.

That being said, some women feel better when they are prepared and have a frame of mind, this article is for that type of person.

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Where does it hurt?

Women feel pain typically in the following body parts:

  • Stomach – some women explain the pain as their insides getting twisted
  • Pelvic area – a radiating pain in this area is usually described – along with immense pressure
  • Legs – the pain in legs usually starts from the back down, and many women reporting leg pain were in bed for the duration of their labor
  • Back – the women who carried their babies in their back report this type of pain the most

How long is each contraction?

It depends on what stage you are in labor – amongst other factors. Typically, they last about 30 seconds to nearly a minute or so. Then you get some break time in between; the break can be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes – again, it depends on your stage of labor.

During early stages of labor, you will experience shorter contractions with a longer time in between. Then everything intensifies as your labor progresses.

If you are in a hospital during your labor, you may be hooked up to a machine known as an Electronic Fetal Monitor (EFM). It monitors your baby’s heartbeat and shows the contractions. It looks like a basic moving graph, you will see a large curve when a strong contraction come along.

I personally did not look at the EFM, but it was a tiny bit entertaining watching my husband and mom look at it. They could see when the contractions were really bad and they would let me know when it was about to end (although from the pain I was aware). Their facial expressions and seeing them get nervous when it was time for another contraction was priceless.

Here is a great article that explains exactly to read an EFM: How to Read a Fetal Monitor in Labor

There are a few things to keep in mind when you are going through labor, like how you will get a break from the intense pain eventually. Or how every contraction brings you one tiny step closer to your baby. The contractions also indicate that your body is doing what it must to get your baby out.

These positive thoughts can help you keep going.

Top 10 Ways to Describe Contracts or Labor Pains

1. Period cramps to the absolute extreme!!!

Many women described their pain as similar to the pain they feel when they get cramps due to their period. The pain you feel can be similar, but typically it’s a period cramp to the extreme.

Like very extreme!

So imagine your last period cramp and imagine it being so painful it stops you in your tracks and takes your breath away.

2. Being ripped apart

Many women describe contractions as if your body is about to be ripped apart. These women feel the pressure in their pelvis as if their body is prepared to just split in half.

You are dilating, so your body is opening up, which is why this description makes total sense.

3. Twisting your insides

This is a very typical way women describe the pain because once a contraction starts, it feels like someone is grabbing whatever organs you have inside your body and twisting them hard.

One woman felt like her baby was kicking and pushing her body from the inside, trying to come out through her skin. Things are moving inside.

4. Stabbing Pain

Some women described their pain as piercing, like someone stabbed them in the back and legs. Or it can be a burning pain from within. Some women are even unsure which part of their body was hurting; the pain was all over.

5. Stomach pressure that can’t get released

Imagine being bloated, but the worst bloat you have ever felt in your life. As if a bouncy castle is being blown inside of you and there is just no space for it to get bigger, but it keeps inflating.

For some women, early cramps feel more like nasty gas; then, the gas turns into awful food poisoning or diarrhea pain in the stomach. Even the worst diarrhea pain you have ever had can still pale in comparison to contractions.

6. Pooping out at huge pumpkin

The pressure is real in your pelvic area. Imagine the feeling you get when you have a big poop that is ready to come out. At most, it is uncomfortable. However, when it is a baby, it’s not poop, it’s like pooping out a huge hard pumpkin.

Don’t think you’re having a pumpkin? It could feel like something else:

  • Watermelon
  • Anvil
  • Baby elephant
  • Bowling ball
  • Medieval torture device with spikes

7. Stomach gets hard then loosens or stomach spasm

During your pregnancy, there may be a time or two (or several if you are me) when your belly gets hard all of a sudden. It can be scary when it happens, but it’s normal and it does not hurt very much. What happens to some women during labor is similar, their stomach gets rock hard – only this time pain is involved.

As your stomach gets hard, it can also feel like a pain similar to a muscle cramp in your foot or leg. That pain sucks, and it spreads to your stomach, down your back, around your pelvis all at once.

8. Worst pain in my life

Some women could not find the words to explain the pain, so they just described it as the worst pain they have ever felt. Fair enough.

9. Excruciating back pain

Women who had back pain felt the piercing type of pain as well. Some said they felt what they imagine breaking bones feels like all along their backs. Or as if the bones were being ripped apart down their spine.

Women who carried their babies in their back/butt areas experienced the most pain in their back.

10. Not so bad for some women

Some women just did not feel as much pain as others. There was no common factor for this type of experience. Some women said they have high pain tolerance; some explained they’d experienced worse pain; some just felt the overall experience was not bad. Some also said after their epidural, it was not bad.

***Balancing work and life as a mom? I got you covered!***

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Final thoughts

Alright, so now you have this uncensored, unfiltered, non-scientific way of thinking about the pain you are about to experience. The best advice I can give as a mom who had a long miserable labor experience:

Practice your breathing!!

I know it sounds crazy, like what can breathing do?

But trust me, it works. There were times when I wanted just to quit (of course, you can’t) and times when I said, “I can’t do this.” What got me through it was my mom and husband coaching me through the contractions and breathing with me.

So get whoever is going to be with you during your labor to practice breathing with you. Trust me, I felt so silly practicing my breathing, so my husband and I blew it off more than once, but we did practice, and that did help.

One thing I was told during my pregnancy was that labor and delivery is the equivalent to taking a 50-mile hike. It is that exhausting, so try to stay active. All I was able to do was walk. But I walked my butt off all nine months. I did as many flights of stairs as I could too. I walked daily at work, in the evening with my husband and anytime I could squeeze it in. Even when I got uncomfortable or had pain during my pregnancy, my pain relief was walking.

There will be pain, so mentally prepare for it. Pay attention to the things people are trying to teach you on how to do deal with the pain and remember you have the right to scream, cry, cuss, or do whatever you can to get through the pain.

Most of all, remember you can do this! It’s temporary pain for the best gift of all, your baby. Best of luck, all of us moms are rooting for you!

Contraction Pain Uncensored: What the Agony Feels Like
Article Name
Contraction Pain Uncensored: What the Agony Feels Like
How contractions really feel like according to moms who recently gave birth. The descriptions are uncensored and real, we just want you to be ready for what you are about to go through.
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Not a Power Couple -Stay at Home Dad. Working Mom.
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