My contractions definately got more painful as time went on. They start out menstrual cramp-like then towards the end it's...indescribable. Especially to a first time mom lol I think I had some positioning issues, maybe, with the two most painful ones. Honestly, after I first had my last baby, I thought to myself if I was ever to be pregnant again, it would have to end in a c-section bc I couldn't go through that again. We are "done" though.
What does natural childbirth feel like? (I'm pregnant) - Page 2
I haven't carefully read all the comments (because my kids have not given me much of a break), but I wanted to point out that just saying "no drugs" is not a good way to have a natural labor. If you want to have a birth without an epidural, definitely, please, take a very good natural child birth class and read up on positions and things your partner can do to help you. Consider hiring a doula. I can't count the number of people who have told me, "I tried to go natural, but it hurt too much," and on further questioning, I find out that they thought they had to just stay in bed, on their back, and grit their teeth through the contractions. If you can move, or labor in a tub, or any number of other things, really, it isn't so bad...but I can't imagine doing it in bed.
For me, for what it's worth, it was like very bad menstrual cramps. Transition didn't exactly hurt more, but it was the point where I told my husband, "I don't want to do this any more." With our second, he tried to give me a high five when I said that, because he knew it was almost over (this did not go over well). With my first, my MW said, "I think you're totally in transition now, and you'll be holding your baby really soon." Knowing that it wasn't going to get any worse was what made it possible to go on--I thought, "Well, I can do *this*. Just as long as it's not going to get worse than this."
I went into birth planning no drugs, but open to them if I was having a particularly rough time. I've read many birth stories with Mom's with awful back pain and really long labors and I was ok with doing an epidural if I had something unusual pain-wise. I didn't feel the need for one in my birth though, even during what I realized was transition where I had the classic "I don't know if I can do this" feelings, I knew from my reading that it was transition and I was almost to pushing. Pushing didn't hurt for me at all, no ring of fire or anything like some experience and I did tear because of DD's nuchal hand (hand by the face as she was born). I wasn't sure how to push, I didn't get an urge, but my body was pushing and after a couple attempts I was able to add to that effectively. Afterwards I was on a natural high that was so great I felt like I could go climb a mountain or something, it was pretty amazing! I'm very glad I was able to birth without drugs and minimal interventions (just the IV & some external monitoring).
I think for your first birth you should prepare some ways to cope with contractions regardless if you plan on an epidural or not as you never know if there will be time for you to get one or how long you will have to cope before you can get one. While I said I didn't choose to have an epidural for my birth, honestly there would not have been time anyway as I was only at the hospital for ~2 hours before I gave birth. I don't think it is bad to be open to pain relief options if you are having a rough time, though I personally would not go for the narcotics, but I have had them before for dental stuff and they just make me loopy and it is not pleasant. Definitely read some birth stories, the ones here are great IME.
Good luck to you, I'm still hoping my babies will both get head down so I can have a repeat vaginal birth!
I always find the phrase 'bad menstrual cramps' misleading. What if your cramps dont hurt, or are so vague , that if they were bad, they wouldnt be 'that' bad.
In any case, for me, transition was aweful but shortlived. The pushing stage was the worst for me (3 times over) Each time it lasted only 20minutes (thank Gd!) but during that time, i felt i would rather die than continue. All my babies were on the big side (apparently 8lbs, 9lbs is considered big), my 2nd two were homebirths and i didnt even tear, my first was in a hospital and i had an episiotomy (very small, so probably didnt even need it, my midwife told me that i shouldnt have got one)
It was very helpful to me to
- think of childbirth as an extreme sport, like a marathon, and "train" for it. The exercises in Active Birth by Janet Balaskas were excellent.
- remember, "At this time tomorrow, this will be over."
- recall various images, bits of music, etc. that I had "stored" in my mind because I thought they might be useful during labor. Most of them were! Some inspired powerful feelings; others were funny.
I agree with those who suggested thinking about your past experiences with pain and how you managed them. I had many migraines before pregnancy. When doctors would ask me to rank my pain on a scale of 1 to 10, I had never ranked anything higher than 9, figuring it was probably possible to hurt worse than I ever had--and indeed, when my son was almost 6 I had a Level 10 migraine and found out I was right about that. Migraine pain typically peaks for about 20 minutes to an hour. During labor, I never had a pain peak that lasted more than TWO minutes, so that made it quite manageable by contrast. A lot of those peaks hit Level 6 or 7, but I didn't get to 8 until transition, and I don't recall hitting 9 at all.
Mostly I felt that the HARD WORK was more difficult to manage than the actual pain. It was a very intense and tiring experience.
I slept through the first stage and awoke in active labor. Most of the labor felt like menstrual cramps that gradually increased in intensity; this increased the peak pain, but the rest of the contraction around the peak was more just intense than it was really painful. What I mean is that as the labor went on, I became less and less able to do anything during a contraction but feel it working and work with it.
One thing I don't think anyone has mentioned is that labor contractions "feel like menstrual cramps" only BIGGER because, of course, your uterus is bigger. The cramps come all the way up to your ribs. It's weird!
In transition, basically the baby is turning the corner from the uterus (which angles toward your back) into the vagina (which is straight down or angled a little forward). To me it felt like a team of movers who've gotten a sofa stuck in the stairwell and are arguing about which direction to push it! Instead of the predictable, crampy contractions I'd been having for hours, this was like a lot of random shoving with sudden (but brief) flashes of sharp pain. I changed positions a lot because nothing was comfortable. I threw up suddenly when the baby whammed against my stomach. Whenever it let up for a minute or so, I'd collapse sort of bonelessly and almost lose consciousness. It wasn't fun, but there was an undercurrent of excitement because of the very definite sense that now I was really getting somewhere! Then suddenly it was over--lasted only about 20 minutes--and I felt really cheerful and ready to have a baby.
Pushing was not any more painful than the contractions in the last few hours before transition--like I said, Level 6 and 7 pain. Getting tired was more of a problem than pain. The nurse told me to "punch down" with the top of my uterus, which didn't sound like anything I would know how to do, but after a few tries I found that I did. Being able to try pushing in different positions (which is harder to do, if not impossible, after epidural) was very helpful.
I had an episiotomy, so the outside of my vagina was numb, but I was able to feel the actual moment of birth on the inside. The best I can describe it is that it felt exactly like losing my virginity only inside-out and much BIGGER. I am glad I was able to feel something. That made it seem very "real" and was also a little bit sexy-feeling, although I didn't get close to the orgasmic birth some women describe.
Overall, I felt unmedicated birth was very feasible, and I'm really glad I did it!
I looked forward to that moment from before I was even pregnant, and (assuming I don't have another baby someday) I'll always be devastated that I missed it. My son released meconium before he was born, so the hospital people swooped in and cut the cord the instant he emerged and whisked him away without letting me see or touch him for even one second!!! They didn't bring him back for almost two hours!!! And the kicker is, what they were doing for the first 15 minutes or so was just suctioning his nose and mouth with a rubber bulb, which they totally could have done while I held him!!! (My midwife had just recently switched hospitals because the previous one closed its maternity ward; I was his [yes, male midwife] first birth at this hospital that had any complication; if he'd known what they were going to do he'd have told them to do it differently; he apologized a LOT.) I reacted physiologically as well as emotionally, I think; it felt like falling backward into cold darkness, and it may be the reason I had excessive blood loss.
I mention this to caution all expectant mothers: ASK about your hospital/birth center/midwife's procedure for complications, and make it VERY CLEAR that you want your baby kept with you immediately after birth unless it is truly impossible. Tell your partner that if it appears the baby is separated from you only for the staff's convenience, he/she should try to get the baby to you ASAP.
Another important thing for your partner to do is, when the baby is about to crown, ignore all the medical stuff and focus on giving you super-happy excited big encouragement. Mine lit up so I couldn't take my eyes off him! It was one of our greatest moments of connection ever, like all that excitement was flowing into me, and it gave me energy just when I needed it.
With the first child I went on for 18 hours. I started to hallucinate from pain. I could not imagine pushing like that and my service at this point was just stuck. My soul was living my body. I was so surprised that I, after years of yoga and meditation practice ecountered pain that I could not handle. I was brainwashed and delusional.
Epidural was a a sweet relief and push my baby out in 30 mins.
I accepted the fact that either my pain is too strong or I have low pain tolerance and with my second chl I got an epidural right away. I pushed him out in 15 min.
Both times I felt pressure while pushing and I was able to push very effectively.
I say things to all my friends , "Plan, nothing, expect nothing and see how it is"
I had very bad menstrual cramps growing up. I remember sitting on the toilet constantly, feeling like something was going to come out, or something was being shoved in, or, I don't even know. The cramps made me want to vomit, they hurt, they didn't stop, I would roll around and cry. I hated menstrual cramps. I figured labor would feel like that, but stronger, but I can't even say how it felt. It wasn't the same. By the time I had children, though, my menstrual cramps had lessened, and I took ibuprofen at the first sign of my period and kept it up for a couple of days every month, so maybe that was part of it, but I hadn't had the bad menstrual cramp experience for at least 5 years going into childbirth.
With my first pregnancy, I had back labor. My water broke, and then I experienced contractions as overwhelming nausea, to the point that I was on my hands and knees in the driveway in the dark, waiting for my doula to get there. She was going to ride to the hospital with us. I hate nausea, honestly, even more than menstrual cramps. Thank goodness I never had morning sickness. Once I was at the hospital, the pain mostly felt like someone had one of those big rounded wooden handles like you see on a heavy duty shovel or other yard tool, and they were taking the blunt end and just working it into my spine. It was like a pressure pain, plus the nausea, and I couldn't get up and move around because they needed that test strip. So I had an epidural, and at some point, transition, I guess, I became very nauseated again and started dry heaving. I felt like my stomach was going to come up through my esophagus. That was the worst part, I just wanted to go home. Then it was time to push, but I couldn't feel to push, it was dreadful, and I kept trying to make them turn it down. Then by the time they did, and I could feel to push, I do remember it feeling kind of like menstrual cramps. Then I got sewn up where I ripped, and that stung like the dickens. I had some retained placenta, so that got pulled out by hand, and that hurt and was really, really strange. Strange. And the uterine massage after delivering the placenta? I would say it was indescribable, but really it was getting a massage in the crampiest muscle you've ever had. It was exquisitely painful, I almost jumped off the bed.
I had a miscarriage after that, at around 11 weeks. That didn't hurt at all. I have no idea why. It just didn't hurt, not even like a mild period.
My second birth was a home birth and the positioning was good, so I didn't have back labor. I can't remember what it felt like, honestly. I didn't like it. I think when it started, it just felt like gas pains, strong gas pains, but when it was the worst, I just can't remember it clearly the way I can the first pregnancy. But I have issues with having what I think is bowel pain when I have my period, and getting shooting pains after the fact. I'm guessing prostaglandins provoke more than just the uterine muscles in that area. My sister had 6 kids all with epidurals, and the one epidural didn't take. She described the feeling of the baby coming out as feeling like your bones are being ripped like in a chicken. She thought it was horrible. At one point when I was near transition, I was standing in the shower, and I decided to squat. Oh, that hurt like heck, so I said no way and stood back up again. That WAS like my bad menstrual cramps magnified, like maybe something was ripping. And when I first started to push, it was even more painful than just a normal contraction. But the feeling of the head moving down was really cool, it didn't bother me, I didn't feel like anything was ripping or tearing (even though I did tear and needed stitches because her shoulder got wedged). In transition my doula told me, "You're doing very well" and I remember feeling petulant and shaky and saying, "I don't FEEL like I'm doing very well." But I was never out of my mind with pain, thankfully.
What a great description!
Hopefully what the OP is learning from all of this is that every experience is so, so different...it's very interesting to read everyone's take on it.
I'll go back and read all the responses later. But I wanted to real quickly say that your question is about what labor feels like, and you seem to be focusing only on "pain." That's totally understandable. I wondered what the pain was like and if I could handle it. When pregnant I read a lot of birth stories and as you can see from responses here, it's very different for each person and each birth. It might be horribly painful or it might be orgasmic. That fact is what I held onto. Whatever happened, I was one of billions of people who give birth. I would experience something and then I would be OK.
It freaked me out (before having kids) to see women who were moms walking around as if they were normal people. Like: Woman, How can you just walk around like nothing happened to you!! You gave birth! A huge baby came out of a small place...Aren't you Changed somehow?? Didn't the "pain and force" of childbirth shake you to the core? Maybe some people have that experience. But for me it was an awesome and transformative event, but it wasn't as much of a...big deal?...as I had imagined it. People give birth!
Let me say again: Everyone and every birth is different. But I can't describe my births as painful. I remember one moment in my second birth where I had tried a position I thought would be good and it was not. It hurt, so I moved. Then it was back to experiencing intensity and cramps. I found the cramps to be more like leg cramps. So...leg cramps hurt, but not in the way that I had imagined birth must hurt. And with my first birth I think it was more like menstrual cramps x10. The second birth, it was like menstrual cramps with a bit of leg cramp thrown in. I was trying to do other things and I'd have to pause and say"ow!" and then I'd go back to doing whatever I was doing.
What I believe helped me was relaxing. I did HypnoBabies. I gave birth in water and I find water very relaxing. Like with a leg cramp, if you just breathe in a way that relaxes you, focus on relaxing, make noises that feel good, and move in a way that seems to help- that's the best thing to do.
This thing that a PP said is something that helped me too:
"If I did lose my cool for one contraction I was able to regain it before the next contraction or the one after that . . . the pain was not a permanent condition so I did not go into any contractions expecting pain, just dealing with it if there was pain and preparing for the next one."
I got a bit panicky at the intensity but as soon as I took a moment to focus on calming down, things went better. And I'm not using "intensity" as a euphemism for pain. It's just different. I find teh quality of contractions to be the same as vomiting. It's something that comes over you that you can't stop. And if you let it, that can be scary. With my first birth, I had the sense that it could have been painful if I would have let my mind consider it that way. But at each moment I chose to reframe it or relax. I hope that makes sense, and I want to say again that I don't mean that in a la la la hippie way.
Also- those tricks to feel what labor is like? The ice cube in my hand- that hurt. Labor- that was intense and powerful.
If I couldn't move around in labor how I wanted, or make noises that I wanted, or feel in control- I don't know how I'd give birth. Well, I guess I would give birth with pain or with drugs. That's just me.
If you have a sense of what you need to birth safely or comfortably, please listen to your intuition and make it happen.