What does a contraction feel like? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 01:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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As a first timer, I am confused and bewildered by all the random pinches, aches and twinges I am beginning to feel. So what does a contraction feel like?

I've been experiencing the strong painless braxton hicks for a couple of weeks now, but am having new weird lower back pains this morning that kinda burn like a menstrual cramp and feel like they are wrapping around me. It was a constant dull ache for more than 10 mins that has gone away for now.

I just don't know what to expect.

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#2 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 01:22 PM
 
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I am so glad you asked this!

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#3 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 01:27 PM
 
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As a first timer, I am confused and bewildered by all the random pinches, aches and twinges I am beginning to feel. So what does a contraction feel like?

I've been experiencing the strong painless braxton hicks for a couple of weeks now, but am having new weird lower back pains this morning that kinda burn like a menstrual cramp and feel like they are wrapping around me. It was a constant dull ache for more than 10 mins that has gone away for now.

I just don't know what to expect.
I don't know what a "real" contraction feels like even though this is my second, because my first labor was entirely in my hips/back (posterior baby) and pitocin-strengthened.

But what you are describing, sounds like what people describe early labor as.

Could be that things are just starting to gear up for you a bit. I wouldn't do anything different unless they cramping/back pains were coming in regular waves. Then I'd lay down and drink some water / half glass of wine, have a soak in a warm tub, and see if things picked up or slowed down.

Kelly (28), in love with husband Jason (38) and our awesome babies:  Emma 4/09, and Ozzy 8/10

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#4 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 01:36 PM
 
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I think it feels like a bolt of lightening has hit metal- only on the inside of you.
I'm very close to birthing twins though....so I could be jaded. When I feel a "real" contraction, there is no mistaking it. (For what it's worth, I have had four kids, going on six)
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#5 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 01:53 PM
 
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I have to agree that once I felt a "real" one, there was no question in my mind. I had an oddly positioned baby too, and after the initial "ouch these are real"....pretty much the rest of them felt like my pelvis was splitting in two, until he came out.

Andrea...wife, SAHM to 3.5 yo DS and 1 yo DD.

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#6 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 01:55 PM
 
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Mine feel like BH until transition, and then they feel tight and like I ate something that didn't agree with me. You know...like it's going to be an uncomfortable bathroom experience. They are never any worse than that. Well, I take that back, with ds at the very, very end, I HAD to get away from them. All it took was a change in position, though.

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#7 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 02:00 PM
 
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it's like your tummy tightened - basically.
degree of tightening and area it covers varies by the contraction.
i'm a 4th timer and it's still hard to recognize!

of course if you have a posterior baby it's more like a pressure on your spine while your hips tighten.
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#8 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 03:14 PM
 
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Am I the only one who experiences this level of pain in labor?
I've done drug free, and my cousin was talking to me about how her labors basically just felt like tightening too, but I can't imagine there'd be that much divergence in the level of intensity.
I honestly feel like it hurts so much that my soul stands with God while I watch my body go through something.
I'm good at giving birth too. I'm quiet and meditative during contractions and my births are like an hour long etc...etc....it's a very holy experience.
But that said:
I've been praying for a gentle birth this time around, because apparently, it exists.
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#9 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 03:14 PM
 
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I don't want to give birth..........whine.
(And to two? Heaven help me.)
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#10 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 03:24 PM
 
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I've gone through two labors naturally.

For me, contractions feel the same as a strong BH until (and I know this is infuriating)...until they don't anymore. Labor will often start out with contractions that feel very much like you've felt before...they slowly amp up until they're involving your whole uterus, and (unlike BH) starting to pull the cervix up over the baby's head.

For me, the only thing that would strongly indicate those EARLY contractions are labor (and not BH) is the timing of them. Once they start to get into a pattern (every 12 minutes, or every 10, or every 7), then you can start thinking "huh....this might be it."

Of course, the pattern can start up, then shut down. This has happened to me both times, usually in the evenings before bed and in the week before labor really kicks in. What they say about water/rest/sleep/bath is true...if you can get them to go away, they're not labor contractions.

If you do get patterned contractions, take it easy and try not to get yourself too amped up. Enjoy the chance to practice with these low-intensity contractions.

Once contractions really start working (the cervix being pulled back and over the dome of the head), you'll feel it happening. For me, it felt like pressure. Definitely uncomfortable, but not freak-me-out-painful at all. I think keeping certain mantras and visuals (especially bio-based ones ...the actual musculature of the process) helped me avoid fear, which helped me avoid a lot of pain. Contractions for me felt like a wave of pressure. It'll take your breath away the peak, almost like getting run over by an imaginary steam roller or something...but it's so comforting to know that after the peak, it fades and you can rest. So in that way, it's like waves. Really regular, predictable waves.

At transition it gets more intense, especially if you have a fast labor. The breaks can be very short, and your body starts to react to the incredible changes happening in your cervix and uterus. Last time I got the shakes...my whole body felt like it was experiencing an earthquake, starting at my uterus and going down my legs. The contractions were powerful, but if you get there without pain meds you'll have the coping tools to deal with the contractions--you KNOW you can do this for the rest of the time, because you've done so much already. Still, the steam roller/wave feeling can be overwhelming. You just kind of hold on (mentally) and let go (physically) at the same time, knowing and trusting your body, knowing and trusting that this is part of the process of pulling the cervix up and over the baby's head. Once you get to the extreme of it, you're SO CLOSE. It's a very powerful motivator.

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#11 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 03:27 PM
 
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For me, contractions feel the same as a strong BH until (and I know this is infuriating)...until they don't anymore.
this is frustratingly true for me too.

5 hours into my labor with DD I was sitting in the emergency room being admitted to the hospital (it was before the front part of the hospital opened) and thinking to myself how embarassing it will be if it turns out to just be BH again.

But then shortly after I got to my room... they didnt feel like BH anymore lol. 3 hours later I was holding her.

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#12 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 03:28 PM
 
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clementine - I think each woman experiences labor differently.

I've had 2 inducements, and 1 natural drug free labor and birth.
The natural birth was the best as far as pain goes.. it barely felt like anything really untill the transition.
Whereas the inductions where .. intense and unbearable. Still nothing sharp tho. It was more a pain overtaking my brain and making me shut down as opposed to anything describable in my midsection.


OTOH - any pain my head: throat, neck, forehead, ear, mouth etc - is something so horrific I want to DIE. I have begged for death before while rolling around the floor, heat pack to my face.
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#13 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 03:33 PM
 
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clementine-my ds was born 30 minutes after "real" contractions started. There were lots of piddly ones before that, but nothing that required much attention. His birth felt like a freight train. It hurt, well, it was extremely intense. I hear the short (hour long like you mentioned) ones are like. A body ripping apart, totally out of control sensation. It was totally beyond me. There was no working with contractions...it was just living through them. I could get away from horrible intensity (pain?) only by hanging from my dh's neck. Literally...I pulled my legs up and spread them out as far as I could and hung from him during each contraction. That position stopped the pain. I learned later that an old, old labor technique was to hang from a low tree branch. So, there ya' go.

Anyway...I've not heard a woman with fast, fast labors be happy about it. My third labor was 2.5 hours from the first "pay attention" contraction. It was gentle and never got difficult. Even as I was telling my dh "oh, huh...this one is having multiple peaks", and I was in transition, was it ever a big deal. But those really, really fast ones...just totally take over your body.


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#14 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 03:36 PM
 
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You know, now that I think about it......by inductions, you mean the hospital started your labor? I DID have three of those. The one where I didn't wasn't any less intense though. Something to think about I guess.
I'm just finding that this time around I'm REALLY dreading the experience. That's such an unreal place to find myself considering I used to be very birth empowered. I've turned into a big pussy.
Now I'm also starting to wonder if it's because my births are so fast. I think from first contraction, to the baby being out of me is almost always an hour. It's good to get it over with, but crap. It hurts.
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#15 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 03:39 PM
 
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At first, I feel pressure evenly downwards in sort of a blunt cone onto my cervix and vagina and rectum. Not pain, just pressure. This builds and climbs upwards my uterus, and then releases back downwards.

These build in intensity and length. Eventually they start feeling crampy low down in front by my pubic bone - this is the cervix opening.

Then when pushing starts I feel downward pressure from the top of my uterus as it contracts. This almost feels like vomiting in that my whole abdomen is heaving, but instead of heaving up, it is heaving downwards. These pushes cannot be stopped and I don't have to do much with them - they make the baby come out on its own.

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#16 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 03:47 PM
 
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At first, I feel pressure evenly downwards in sort of a blunt cone onto my cervix and vagina and rectum. Not pain, just pressure. This builds and climbs upwards my uterus, and then releases back downwards.

These build in intensity and length. Eventually they start feeling crampy low down in front by my pubic bone - this is the cervix opening.
I had something very like this in the car the other day, but the pressure at the end of it was lingering, almost painfull and in between my legs for about two minutes. I thought it would never end, ever since standing upright after sitting or moving around at first is definetly a "sore" experience. I haven't felt it since.

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#17 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 04:33 PM
 
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Amazing that it can be so different!

Mine were like Just1More. BH, then kind of period crampy, then like IBS. Then there was transition, which was not about contractions really as much as it was about my body opening up to allow a giant force to pour through me. It was WAY more psychologically intense than it was physically. And then there were the pushing contractions, which was a lot of force and tension and effort.
But the early ones for me were very sneaky, just a sense of tightness and openness.

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#18 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 04:56 PM
 
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You know, now that I think about it......by inductions, you mean the hospital started your labor? I DID have three of those. The one where I didn't wasn't any less intense though. Something to think about I guess.
I'm just finding that this time around I'm REALLY dreading the experience. That's such an unreal place to find myself considering I used to be very birth empowered. I've turned into a big pussy.
Now I'm also starting to wonder if it's because my births are so fast. I think from first contraction, to the baby being out of me is almost always an hour. It's good to get it over with, but crap. It hurts.
My mw has births like that. She said by her fourth baby she couldn't even think about it beforehand. She just had to totally ignore the fact that birth was going to happen. Her mw wanted to talk about it, but she refused. Then, when it does come, she just surrenders to it as best she can and gets it over with.

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#19 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 05:16 PM
 
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I'm just finding that this time around I'm REALLY dreading the experience. That's such an unreal place to find myself considering I used to be very birth empowered. I've turned into a big pussy.
I'm so with you on this!! I had an asynclitic baby, and it took 6 hours to go from 7 cm to baby out. 2 of those hours were dilating, the other 4 were pushing, and I never had a single urge to push during the pushing part. Obviously this is different than your labors, but DAMN having a baby stuck in your pelvis for that long is PAINFUL. I felt like my pelvis was exploding for all 6 of those hours, and didn't have complete relief between contractions either. No way am I looking foward to it. I was showing DS birth videos on youtube earlier this week, and just thinking about going through that give me the willies.

Andrea...wife, SAHM to 3.5 yo DS and 1 yo DD.

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#20 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 06:58 PM
 
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My midwives said your body does the same work in one, two or ten hours, it needs to get to 10 cm. When the work is spread out, it's often less intense, but when it's concentrated in a small time, it's often VERY intense. We also talked about how your levels of endorphines increase as the pain increases, keeping it manageable for most people.

With DS (#2) my contractions were irregular and mostly just tightening for hours and hours, then suddenly I had a two unbelievably painful, long and intense contractions, and then I was pushing. It was unreal. With DD (#1), I woke up with thinking, hmm... these Braxton Hicks hurt a bit more, they're a bit more painful, I can feel them starting and wrapping around, something is well, different. It was only a few of them later I realized it was labor. And they continued like that, but building in intensity gradually, a little at a time, for hours. It was manageable until the very end when I hit transition, then I had to really work to keep on top of the contractions.

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#21 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 07:26 PM
 
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My mw has births like that. She said by her fourth baby she couldn't even think about it beforehand. She just had to totally ignore the fact that birth was going to happen. Her mw wanted to talk about it, but she refused. Then, when it does come, she just surrenders to it as best she can and gets it over with.
This is how I've been coping too. I'm 100% serious. In fact, I met with my doula once, and then decided I couldn't go back because I'm not talking about this with anyone. I'm WAY better off ignoring this lol. This is my first time opening up about it, the time draws nigh......and all that.
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#22 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 08:03 PM
 
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I have to agree that once I felt a "real" one, there was no question in my mind. I had an oddly positioned baby too, and after the initial "ouch these are real"....pretty much the rest of them felt like my pelvis was splitting in two, until he came out.
Like this. My entire uterus just seized up and oh my, the ouchiness. I had been having Braxton Hicks for weeks and weird other pains. When labor started for me, there was no doubt. It felt very different.

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#23 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 08:07 PM
 
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Am I the only one who experiences this level of pain in labor?
I've done drug free, and my cousin was talking to me about how her labors basically just felt like tightening too, but I can't imagine there'd be that much divergence in the level of intensity.
I honestly feel like it hurts so much that my soul stands with God while I watch my body go through something.
I'm good at giving birth too. I'm quiet and meditative during contractions and my births are like an hour long etc...etc....it's a very holy experience.
But that said:
I've been praying for a gentle birth this time around, because apparently, it exists.
Nope, I'm with you. I am sooo envious of the people who say birth wasn't that painful. My friend said breaking her ankle was way more painful. Mine was excruciating. I can't even describe it. I'm not sure if part of it was the position of the baby (posterior).

Mom to DD (3), my little peanut (9/10/09) and our newest addition 9/16/10
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#24 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 08:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you everyone for posting about your contraction experiences. It's been very eye opening. no more weird back pains like before, but my braxton hicks have been coming as often as 4 minutes apart all day long.

This could be a long 4.5 weeks if I go to 42weeks. Fingers crossed that does not happen!

SAHM to one precious 2 year old and wife to my loving DH. And here we go again!
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#25 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 08:20 PM
 
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DDCC from Nov.

All of my labors (2 natural and 1 induction) started out like strong BH and then turning to BH with menstrual cramp like feelings wrapping around belly to my back. Then by 5cm there is no mistaking I'm in labor -- pain is increasing. By 7 cm I felt like I couldn't do it anymore ... that is always when I start begging for meds but my last 2 labors by the time I finally got an epidural at "7cm" I pushed the baby out w/in 5-10 min ... my body went that quick. It definately felt like I couldn't handle it anymore. Pain starting in my uterus going sharply down my legs -- I had no way to hold myself up in any position -- I could only focus on breathing and not talk or do anything else (I did cry with my last one). The epidurals didn't take the last 2 times so I still felt the pain of the contractions and the strong pressure that happened when I knew it was time to push. I also got nauseated at 7 cm each and everytime. That is always a sign of where I'm at in labor. With my DD (my only induction) I kept saying, "I can't do this anymore" even during pushing where I felt like everything was out of control.
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#26 of 26 Old 08-20-2010, 09:43 PM
 
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The only reason I recognized my early contractions last time was because my water broke. An hour later I started to feel like my period was coming. And that was it -- bad menstrual cramps until I started pushing (the transition ones were really bad!). I also never had breaks. The contractions would die down but they never went totally away. I was crampy the whole time which made timing them difficult.

My daughter's birth was pretty fast. I went from easily talking through contractions to pushing in an hour. If my water hadn't broken I'm betting the contractions would have woken me up about 4 hours or so before the actual birth.
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