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Anyone who’s about to become a mom will always wonder what life would be like when you have to parent a human being. But before all that, one has to wonder what it’s like to give birth and of course, “how does labor feel when it starts?”
If you’re dreading your due date because a lot of your mom friends have awful stories about childbirth, then I understand and you probably have all the right to be scared. That’s because most of those stories are true, particularly about how labor feels. It’s been almost five years since we welcomed our boy but the memory of the physical pain I felt the day I gave birth is still, somehow, fresh.
When I got pregnant, people within my social circle had recently given birth so I had someone to ask all about pregnancy, breastfeeding, horrible nausea and what labor contractions really feel like. I got the same answer from most new moms I asked – contractions felt like menstrual cramps – only 10x worse.
The first time I heard that answer, I froze.
I experience menstrual cramps every month (or every other month — I’m an irregular bleeder) but even then, I’ve never really gotten used to the pain and it’s something I will probably never stop hating. I wasn’t prepared to learn that I’ll be experiencing 10x worse the pain.
To prepare you mentally for the big day, here are things you need to know about how labor feels like when it starts.
First Stage of Labor
The American Pregnancy Association states childbirth involves three stage: phases of labor, cervical dilation to 10 cm until delivery, and the delivery of the placenta. An expectant mom will go through different phases of labor and with each phase, you’ll feel different levels of pain. I will focus more on the first stage of labor since it is what most moms dread – labor contractions!
1. Early Labor Phase
-no need to panic and rush to the hospital
-cervix is dilated to 3cm.
-characterized by mild contractions
– depending on your pain threshold, you may feel nothing to a slight aching on your lower back and tightening in the pelvic area. I didn’t know that I was already in labor at that time. I really felt nothing.
2. Active Labor Phase
– time to go to the hospital
– contractions are longer and stronger and close together
– cervix is dilated between 4cm-7cm
– depending on your threshold, you can feel nothing to unbearable pain. I started feeling it at 7 cm.
3. Transition phase
This is said to be the most challenging of all labor phases (a.k.a all hell breaks loose phase) but it will be over real soon.
– cervix is dilated between 8cm to 10 cm.
– you will need all the support you can get. Unfortunately for me, there was none. We weren’t allowed to have someone with us in the labor room, which sucks really.
– if you feel like taking a dump, tell your healthcare provider.
What to Expect When Labor Contractions Start
- Labor contractions really feel like menstrual cramps or tightening around the lower abdominal area. It starts out as a low-level pain that gradually progresses into intense and excruciating pain.
- Your world will spin because you will not understand the pain that comes with contractions. I felt hot and irritable and out of breath.
- Intense pain will be felt in the lower abdomen and in the back.
- The pain can get more intense, it will radiate to your legs, particularly the upper thighs.
- You might also feel Braxton Hicks contractions or false contractions in the middle of your pregnancy. They can begin as early as the second trimester. It’s characterized by an uncomfortable tightening in the abdomen.
Some Tips To Prepare Yourself For the Labor Pains
There’s no way to sugarcoat what labor contractions really feel like. But what you can do is prepare and tell yourself it’s going to be painful – extremely, unbearably painful. To mentally condition yourself, research all about childbirth, read horror stories from moms – I know that worked for me. If you have anxiety, read positive stories instead and read positive experiences from other people. Doing your research by reading books about pregnancy can also help you prepare for childbirth.
A support person can greatly help you during the stressful phases of labor. Prepare together and when it’s time, focus on that person for utter support. Practice your breathing and relaxation techniques. They can come in very handy.
I didn’t do much, I didn’t have a support person with me and I didn’t know how to practice breathing (lol) but I managed. I only had the company of Ransom Riggs’ book the whole time. What really helped was educating myself about what is expected to happen and what could possibly happen, whether good or bad.
You can do this! You’re designed to be awesome. You’ll be fine.
Note: This article is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. Contact your healthcare provider if you’re not sure if you’re in real labor.