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What Does Labour Feel Like?

Does this sound like you...?

"My tolerance for pain is really low, I have no idea how I'm going to manage to get through labour!"

Or maybe you've thought something like this..?

"I'm just going to have to take all the drugs they offer because I know I don't cope well with pain!"

I completely understand, I too feel like the ultimate wuss when it comes to even a hint of discomfort or pain. And yet the birth of my son was entirely drug free! Seems like a bit of a contradiction, right?

Here's the thing, contractions are going to feel different to each person; so no one can accurately explain what they will feel like for you. But the fear of the unknown is a real doozy when it comes to labour and birth (especially if it's your first time!) so I'm going to have a right good go at describing how it could possibly feel!

Early Labour:

When your labour is just getting started the general consensus is that the sensations you feel aren't anything wild and are totally manageable! You could get a feeling similar to mild period cramps, a dull ache across your lower abdomen or back, or sometimes people describe a tightening or pinching feeling (a bit like getting a cramp from running). Sometimes people feel an aching/swollen feeling around their vulva and inside their vagina too.

People in early labour tend to feel able to carry on with their average day to day activities with no worries! Early labour is a great time to relax and conserve your energy. Do things that aren't too taxing but bring you lots of joy. Stoll to the local café with friends anyone? Or a snuggle on the sofa with your favourite feel good film?

Established Labour:

Okay so over time, those early labour sensations gradually build bit by bit. The period cramp or tightening abdomen feeling will probably be more intense now.

If you remember just one thing from this blog post, please let it be this...

Contractions come in waves! They start mild, build up to a peak and then ease away. And your average contraction in the height of established labour only lasts one minute. You can do anything for a minute, right?! Even better, the intensity of the contraction is only at the peak of the wave... so really only 20 seconds!

After each contraction has ebbed away you will have time to rest before the next comes along. There will normally be a couple of minutes before the next contraction starts to build, and in this space you'll probably feel totally normal!

You might also feel a pressure or pushing in your nether regions with each contraction. It's your baby pressing down on your cervix and can feel a bit like when you need a big poo!


You're so close now Mama - your baby is almost here!

Crowning is when your baby's head is right at the edge of your vagina and is about to be born. This moment is also quite commonly known as 'The Ring of Fire". Which sounds scary and not nearly as fun as the drinking game... I know. But the best thing you can focus on here is that your baby will be in your arms in just the next few moments.

So why is it called 'The Ring of Fire"?! Because it can feel just like that. A burning or stinging sensation which will only last momentarily as your vagina opens to the widest it will need to be. But it's what vaginas are designed to do!

And honestly... most people are happy to know they're at this point because it's like (staying on the theme of drinking games here) the last song of the night when you're OUT OUT and you know you'll be picking up that sweet greasy fast food, collapsing into a cab and heading home to conk out in bed in just a few minutes! Yes, the balls of your feet are burning like hell in your heels but you can easily manage and even enjoy that one last dance because you know it will all be over sooner rather than later!

So what do you think? Now that you have an idea of how labour might feel, will you consider planning your pain relief options? We chat lots about pain relief (drugs and other options) on a Mamakind Hypnobirthing course so please do get in touch if you'd like more info.


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