What does labour feel like?

(122 Posts)
NewMummy5July2011 Tue 03-May-11 13:29:16

I'm 31 weeks with my first and now that my NCT classes have begun, I'm really starting to think more about the labour. I'm half terrified/half excited!

I am intersted in reading more about birth experiences generally, and finding out more what labour actually feels like. I really am hoping to give birth naturally (Tens and Gas and Air) but of course realise the pain may get too much and am open to more drug relief such as an epidural.

Can anyone explain what it felt like? The worst pain of your life or is it not as bad as that? I suppose I have moments of sheer panic where I think I won't be able to cope, and others where I feel very positive about the whole thing.

Any advice or thoughts would be really great.

Thank you. x

OP’s posts: |
mousymouse Tue 03-May-11 13:30:56

it is soooo different for everyone.
for me, cramps in thighs, tummy ache, dizzy, vomiting.
but still not "the worst ever".
my broken foot was much more uncomfortable

moogalicious Tue 03-May-11 13:37:03

What mousy said. With mine, I had pains in my lower back - nothing across my tummy. Definitely the worst pain of my life, but I coped ok with gas and air and breathing exercises.

supergreenuk Tue 03-May-11 13:39:08

Contractions were like a hot poker on my back and then it is gone. It got much worse after my waters broke and I needed more pain relief from then (pethadine). I guess I always expected it to get unbearable so left pain relief until I felt I really needed it. I got to 7 cm with no pain relief and then gas and air and pethadine in the last 10 minutes. Yes it is extemely painful but it isnt constant pain so there is a relief from the pain.

sheeplikessleep Tue 03-May-11 13:45:36

same as supergreenuk - like someone was hitting my back with a metal pole. but then my waters broke over 30 hours before i gave birth and i ended up with an epidural. best thing i ever did. in the situation i was in, i was exhausted and needed relief.
with ds2 though, it was totally totally different and i managed fine.
it's so individual. my sis was laughing in between her contractions and just totally silent during her contractions, she almost enjoyed her labour.
so you never know. i say expect the worst and hope for the best! no matter how bad it gets, you do forget about it, that instantaneous moment the baby is handed to you and you'd do it all again in an instant.

good luck!

Viagrafalls Tue 03-May-11 13:48:23

Excellent thread - I am expecting my first in 3 months and will be awtching this avidly! Good luck OP! smile

Firkytoodle Tue 03-May-11 13:49:03

Contractions were like a muscle spasm (similar to the ones you get when you have diarrhea) but it built up to a peak and then faded away again. At the top of the peak it was almost unbearable and just as I thought I couldnt take any more it went away. It was a positive pain though as you know it will end and they will get closer together. I found that they only 'hurt' when I was frightened and tense and overwhelmed, if I concentrated on keeping all my muscles relaxed -my jaw especially it wasnt too bad. Visualisations and breathing exercises really helped me cope, as did my TENs which was fab for keeping me relaxed and provided counter pressure for the back contractions. It was also easier to deal with if I distracted myself, so I walked, watched Tv and listened to music, rather than clockwatching all the time (my labours were long-22 and 19 hours each). Gas and Air was great for keeping my breathing calm as you can hear it more, plus it makes you woozy and floaty which is a great distraction!
It was definitely not the worst pain ever.


Firkytoodle Tue 03-May-11 13:51:50

Just read what sheeplikessleep wrote about her sister-sounds like she had a similar experience to me. I did enjoy it, I'd give birth to DS (2nd baby) again tomorrow.

crw1234 Tue 03-May-11 13:52:18

Its is really really different for different people - for me the only equilvelent was period cramps - but stronger - not more painful exactly -I wouldn't say its the worst pain I ever had - but especially in my first labour it was the length of time -baby was back to back which didn't help and lack of sleep - that made it hard - and it kind of takes you over which can be hard to go with - first time ended up with an epidural, however 2nd time only gas and air -
At transition eg just before pushing stage - often people do get a point where they think they can't cope - it can be helpful to warn your birth partner about that and to remind you at that point
best book I have read on (natural) birth is Ina May's guide to birth by Ina May Gaskin which has loads of postive birth experiences
Ps nothing wrong with using pain releif if you need it

RhinestoneCowgirl Tue 03-May-11 13:57:28

Different both times - first time pain was intense in the small of my back, second time more like classic period cramps (only more so...). Both times I had a point where I felt panicked and overwhelmed - think this was probably 'transition'.

Also, the pain really does go away in between contractions which I couldn't get my head round beforehand.

I found TENS great, but I know others don't get on with it.

Wigeon Tue 03-May-11 14:02:33

Afraid it really was the worse pain of my entire life, by far. I actually can't remember in what way it was painful, just that it was very very painful and required my intense concentration the whole time to deal with it. However, I did cope and used TENS, gas and air, active labouring postitions, shouting "aaaaahhh" a lot and generally focussing. And I got through it. It is possible to cope with it.

Almost due to have baby number 2 and am finding this book called Birth Skills very very useful in helping prepare for another (ideally) a natural birth. Good on you that you are open to the idea of stronger pain relief if necessary too - think it's essential to go into labour with an open mind.

thaigreencurry Tue 03-May-11 14:16:13

It was not what I expected at all. With ds1 I had an elcs so my labour with ds2 was my first experience. It started off very manageable, what I thought were braxton hicks intensified and became more regular. It was uncomfortable but not painful. However I don't know if it is because it was a back to back labour but I found the vaginal examination unbelievably painful it was torture and I'm ashamed to say I was crying and unable to let the midwife examine me properly. I couldn't get the hang of gas and air.

I wasn't prepared for what happened when my waters broke. I expected the contractions to increase in pain but I didn't expect it to happen so suddenly. My contractions were very close together and with each contraction I vomited. I was also tachycardic (sp) and I was advised to have an epidural. I had completely forgotten all the breathing and relaxation techniques learnt in hypnobirthing. It probably didn't help that I spent the first hour of fullblown labour on an antenatal ward without dh at night when the expectant mums were trying to sleep.

The epidural took the pain away almost immediately and I stopped vomiting. However it did slow the contractions down and I never got past 9cm so ended up with an emcs.

NewMummy5July2011 Tue 03-May-11 14:53:27

Thank you everyone for your replies - it's really interesting to read about the different experiences. It's really helpful to get an idea of what it could be like - and to understand what is happening if intervention of some kind is needed.

I like to be in control of things, so I think I find it so difficult just not knowing what to expect or how it will go for me. Am trying hard to get past that and your stories have really helped me so thank you so much!


OP’s posts: |
sheeplikessleep Tue 03-May-11 15:24:10

Newmummy - just to say i'm a teeny weeny bit of a control freak and i think that went against me a bit, first time around especially. i almost needed to know how long it was going to be (patience is also not one of my strengths) and i got quite stressed that i didn't know the 'end time' of it all. it didn't help the process.

if we ever go for number 3 (eek!), my biggest intention is to just surrender to it and let it be. if i can grin

working9while5 Tue 03-May-11 15:32:03

Very like firkytoodle's here.

I found it very manageable to just "go with it" even though I had a lot of those things people traditionally associate with a "hard" delivery - induced on a drip 30 hrs after waters breaking, back to back large baby with head on the 95th centile.

I felt like I was bobbing up and down in the ocean and sometimes when the pain peaked it was like I was submerged for that peak, and then it would subside.

I got the epidural far earlier than I really wanted to because although I could manage by breathing/tens/bobbing up and down in my mind, I couldn't manage the idea of another vaginal exam e.g. if I could have gone on in my own space I would have been fine but I knew I would lose it bigstyle if there was more rummaging going on down there.

Am hoping to delay vaginal exams next time.

I kind of remember it as being fine. Controlled breathing helped lots, I also squeezed one of those Mayan stress ball thingies and I remember REALLY focusing on it. The tens also helped. And the gas and air.

The epidural takes it all away but next time I would hope to do without.

bigredtractor Tue 03-May-11 15:36:17

I didn't realise I was in labour for the first 2 hours then I only had 6 hours from then until DS popped into the world!

I found it manageable - sore, of course, but I've broken bones and that hurt more. It felt like bad period pain with someone squeezing you round the middle at the same time- odd!!

I guess a lot if it is your state of mind, too - focus on the fact that it's a means to an end, it's not pain due to illlness or injury- it's got a purpose!

droopypoppies Tue 03-May-11 15:37:34

Both labours felt very much the same for me, but I was alot more frightened with DC1.
With DC2 I was frightened because I knew what was coming, but kept quite composed until I was 8 cm.
I just closed my eyes and did what my body wanted to do. This included shouting, swearing, vomiting and moaning.

The pain was abit like the tummy ache you get when you eat something undercooked, like beefburgers. sad Gripping, cramping, rolling around on the bed kind of thing, but it was only really really awful wailing pain when I was 8+cm dilated.
I had no pain relief too not even G&A, so may not have been so intense if I'd had pain relief.

sdotg Tue 03-May-11 15:38:17

It does hurt but it comes and goes, I guess it depends entirely on your ability to deal with pain and that so called pain threshold, mine is pretty high (I think!)
For me it was nowhere near as bad as gallstone pain (which made me want curl up and die and sent me slightly potty) or the egg collection process during ivf (which was under pethidine).
I never felt I wanted more than gas and air and although I was strapped to a fetal monitor and not actively moving around it enabled DP to spot when the contractions were coming so I could start on the gas and air before the pain started.
I found yoga type breathing very useful (having previous scoffed at it) so in through the nose and out through the mouth in a controlled slow fashion, through the pain, I did try a bit of shouting instead of controlled breathing but found that didn't help the pain at all so went back to the breathing.
They started like period cramps for me.
Vaginal exam in the early stages of labour were V painful as was being stitched up afterwards, I have no recollection of any tearing,

Caveat here is that I had a relatively short labour with a small (5lb 13oz) baby and an excellent (same) midwife for the whole time so that obviously helps.

All the best

Fredfred Tue 03-May-11 18:41:24

It doesn't always come and go. For me it was one long continuous pain which was completely unbearable. I have since found out that this was because the baby was back to back. I am sure I would've dealt with it much better had the pain come and gone. As I couldn't feel separate contractions, I didn't realize I was in labour until I was 6 cm. I thought I had food poisoning which was what it felt like (including vomiting and diarrhea- sorry TMI).

Thornykate Tue 03-May-11 20:52:03

Pain for me was like very strong but intermittant period pains, strong enough to be all consuming though in that I couldn't talk or do anything else during them.

But I do try & make the most of them being intermittent, rest & breathe in between them & be thankful that i am one contraction nearer to the end.

Transition just feels weird to me, not nice but inevitable if that makes sense.

Good luck OP I hope you have a lovely, peaceful & safe birth smile

herethereandeverywhere Tue 03-May-11 21:11:07

Like the lower half of your abdomen being simultaneously torn apart and set on fire.

Like others who had a not so great time and have shared experiences here, I was induced and she was back to back so it's not always like that. I also had one long continuous pain and the drugs hyperstimulated me so I was getting 7 contractions in 10min rather than 4.

Well done for being prepared, I wish I'd had more information about how hellish it would be. Don't close your mind to the idea of drugs, just in case you need them. I was reduced to hitting myself on the head repeatedly until I eventually got the epidural.

I really hope you're lucky enough to get a baby who comes on time, in the optimum position, with the minimum fuss.

BatFlattery Tue 03-May-11 21:36:59

My labour was totally in my back - didn't get any pains in my tummy at all. To start with the pains were very manageable, just breathed through them and carried on as normal in between (had a very long labour). However, once things really got going, the pain became much more intense and made me feel quite panicky at times. I really tried to concentrate on my breathing which helped for the first few hours.

Once my waters were broken though, my God, the pain just did not let up - there was no discernible gap between contractions at all. I tried TENS before we went into hospital, but it didn't work for me, and had gas and air once we got to hospital, which really helped (not by making the pain any less, but by making time pass really quickly!).

After pushing for 3 hours with no results at all, I was given an epidural in preparation for forceps delivery, and the relief was instantaneous. I wouldn't automatically go for another epidural if I have another baby, but it is definitely worth considering if you have a long labour and are getting exhausted.

I think the pains were so bad for me because DS was in an awkward position, hence the forceps.

Hope everything goes well for you, don't forget what everyone above has said pretty much - it is different for everyone. grin

notcitrus Tue 03-May-11 21:43:24

Personally, like not-that-bad period pains. Unfortunately I had really bad SPD which was agonising!

Day after birth I was demanding my painkillers for the SPD and hospital had cocked up, and they were saying 'yes, you're right it must really hurt where you've given birth' and I was saying it's my pelvic joints that hurt, my vagina is just fine thank you!

I spent the whole labour in a bit of a calm content daze - maybe reading the Hypnobirthing book helped that.

BeeBopBunny Wed 04-May-11 10:11:51

I found labour more painful than anything i could have imagined to be honest. Towards the end the contractions came one on top of another for quite a while with no break inbetween. But with gas and air and concentrating on breathing I got through it without any other pain relief. It's weird though - your body copes because it has too and it knows what to do even if your brain doesn't! I think mine was so painful because DD had a rather large head... And to be honest, I don't feel that the NCT classes are a great preparation - you will definitely know all about the technicalities and various types of pain relief etc but the NCT classes I went to were very unrealistic about the pain side of things and gave the impression that you can easily get through it all by thinking happy thoughts and the occassional puff of gas and air which isn't the case for a lot of women. You can get to a stage where no amount of birthing balls or relaxing music make it any better! It's better to expect something v painful than for it to come as a surprise IMO.

But on the other side of the coin, that moment when you have your newborn baby in your arms is also something you can't really imagine until it happens - so wonderful, it's making me get all emotional thinking about it now!

blindmelon Wed 04-May-11 10:27:57

It is s different kind of pain to any other- it's not like breaking your leg for example! It builds up gradually and though the peak of the contraction is really intense, it then starts to ease and you have a bit of respite before it starts up again. Best advice is to go with it, don't panic, deep breathing and visualisation really does help. Just think about getting through each contraction.

Gas and air really does take the edge off it if you use it right- start breathing it in as soon as the contraction starts as I found it took 3 good breaths before it really took effect. I also found just as I got to the point I felt I couldn't take any more the contraction would start easing off.

With the pushing stage I found that the overwhelming need to push was stronger than the feeling of pain and by that stage it was like my body had taken over and there was nothing I could do except go with it, if that makes any sense at all!

Bottom line is you can do it, women have been doing it since the beginning of time. Definitely recommend Ina May's guide to childbirth, it's a brilliant book.

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