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What does a contraction ACTUALLY feel like?!

Well, in all honesty it depends who you ask and how their birth unfolded.

Generally, there's a big difference between early labour, and then when things start to ramp up. - they can change from being period like pains to intense pressure.

They tend to be more painful if your labour is induced or augmented (sped up via the drip!).

The sensations also depend on baby's positioning - if baby is back to back, you're likely to feel contractions in your back, these tend to be more painful & continuous (with little to no breaks in-between).

Spontaneous labours when baby's are in an 'Optimal fetal position' (where their back is against your tummy) and contractions during these labours are much more comfortable and manageable.


I asked my incredible clients and here's what they had to say...



Image Credit: www.instagram.com/Kate_nel_birthkeeper


'I think the only thing to say is you know it’s happening, there’s no doubting it’s the real thing when they come. Mine swept round from my back to my tummy in a wave and stopped me in my tracks. Once in the water though I was dozing between them ♥️' said Chelsea


'I’d been in for monitoring for a week or so before he actually arrived and when hooked up to the monitor it was registering quite a few contractions and I genuinely felt nothing. Just the “tightening” that has been described but zero discomfort/pain. Then when I knew I was actually in labour it just felt like period pains (which I’ve always suffered from quite badly anyway so they really didn’t bother me much, I cleaned our kitchen top to bottom about 4 hours before I actually gave birth 😅) then they ramped up and I think when I realised I had to go into hospital rather than getting my homebirth my adrenaline spiked so I didn’t have as much control of my breathing etc and they hurt more on the car ride but they still felt like intense period pains to me, a bit in my back and thighs but mainly lower belly. Then I had rolling contractions until I gave birth so it wasn’t quite the “waves” that were described but each one definitely built to a peak of discomfort but never really subsided fully. I got to 7cm before I got gas and air so I think I was very lucky that my labour progressed so quickly I’d say for me the most incredible part was the pushing. It was so innate I couldn’t have stopped pushing even if I was told to. My entire body just took over and I don’t even necessarily remember it as painful, just an intense pressure and need to push. And at that point I just kept saying “I’m doing a massive poo” repeatedly but obviously that was Archie (and probably some poo too 😂). I don’t even remember a “ring of fire” feeling but do remember feeling Archie’s head easing in and out, that felt pretty surreal! So I would sum it up as, period pain then into waves of intense pressure and then my body just completely took over and did what it needed to do!' said Bethan


'Cor, that’s a hard one to put into words!! In early labour I definitely referred to them as tightenings rather than anything as they weren’t painful, I was just aware of my bump tightening every so often. I’m not sure I could describe them in full on labour honestly, I’m not sure I even remember despite it only being 6 weeks ago!' Said Ali

'Early labour nothing, just felt like baby moving lots, only knew they were contractions because I was being monitored. Then they went like tightenings like your belly just squishing in on itself not super painful just uncomfortable. Then after my sweeps they got like period cramps and then ramped up to what I can only describe as someone putting a lot of pressure on your belly to the point it hurts. At that point they were painful and I went for an epidural xD then they went back to the slight tightenings like baby was moving xxx'said Jenn

'Needing a big poo for me.. but Dexter was back to back so felt bad aches in my back! Xx' said Ellie

'I think to begin with they felt like ripples early on. I was induced so as the drip really kicked in it felt like someone was either side of my bump with there hands and they were pushing it really hard either side if that makes sense? 😂 other than that that I really can’t remember past a certain point!' Said Lucy

'I think describing them as waves fits with what I remember. Waves of intense uncomfortable pressure. Back labour is definitely worse, when baby was in the ‘right’ position and the contractions were all in front, it was manageable. The back pain is something else when baby is back to back'' Said Ali

'Mine felt like period cramps to start with for most of the day then ramped up to a feeling I can't quite explain! I didn't have much discomfort in my stomach, it was all in my pelvis, lower back and the tops of my legs once I was in the thick of labour. The pushing phase was definitely the most surreal sensation! Amazing how our bodies know what to do and take over 💕' Said Emma

'I agree with all of this. I was in on off labour for about a week and most of that was like bad period cramps. When I was in active labour I felt most of the discomfort in the tops of my legs which was something I wasn’t expecting!' Said Amy

'I wasn’t even aware I was in labour for 4 days when I went to triage as per my midwife’s request for a check up coz I was hitting 42 weeks. They told me my waters had broken 4 days prior and I didn’t know and they hooked me up to a machine and it said I was contracting every 10 mins but I felt nothing. This carried on for 5 more days until after day 5 it started to feel like tightening, then ramped up to a period pain but all I can describe it as is a deeper period pain.

I was also put on the drip eventually which as we all know ramps up those contracts from 0-100 and very quickly they just became all consuming tightness, pressure, feeling the need to poop, I felt them in my back, my uterus, my legs even and the only to describe it really is as people say, like a period pain but much much stronger and spreading further.' Said Amanda

'So tricky to describe, it all seems like such a blur now…

So I was induced on day 12 passed my “guess date”. Rumour has it that induction surges are worse than natural ones. The pains at the start I’d say are close to period pains but when the “established labour” hit and I was hooked up to the hormone drip I’d say are indescribable pains😆

I tried to be as controlled with my body as much possible, gas and air helped initially and I stayed surprisingly calm. However my body wasn’t responding well with the hormone drip and the epidural was the best option for me at the time' said Sabrina

'I would describe them as intense (very bad) period pains that made me stop and have use my breathing techniques to get through each one (I am a whiny with pain though!) they stayed pretty much same intensity and only built up abit in eight hours, when I got to hospital I was put straight on drip and had epidural so didn’t feel anything Xx' said Kayley


Want to read more birth experiences?

Check out some amazing positive birth stories here...


Vicky's Home Birth

Steph's Labour Ward Birth

Bryony's Labour Ward Birth

Jenn's Positive Induction Birth


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