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What The Heck Does Labor Actually Feel Like? (what it really feels like to give birth)

What The Heck Does Labor Actually Feel Like? (what it really feels like to give birth)

If you’re here because you’re scared of giving birth and/or you’re wondering what does labor feel like?-

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You’ve come to the right place!

I’ve included some real birth stories that sum up what labor was like for that particular mom. You need to keep in mind that every woman is different. Every labor and delivery is different. There are positive and negative experiences, just like anything else in life.

This post is not meant to scare, but rather to inform and prepare you!

*PS- if you haven’t taken a prenatal course yet, check out this free one! It’s by a lady who’s been an OB nurse since 2001 so she really knows her stuff 🙂 Grab your free prenatal course here.

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure at the bottom of the page.

What Do Contractions Feel Like?

Contractions are strange. You feel one coming on and it enwraps your whole body. It may start in your back or in your belly or you won’t be able to tell the difference. Everything gets hard, ROCK HARD as your muscles contract. It’s really a bizarre feeling!

The contractions you’ll feel will be different throughout the stages of labor.

What Does False Labor Feel Like?

You know it’s false labor when the contraction stops if you move or get up or drink some water. You also know it’s false if they are irregular and stop and start. However, it might seem easy to determine while you’re reading it on a blog post but in reality, it can be confusing as HELL trying to figure out if you’re in labor. I went in for a false alarm with my SECOND baby! You’d think I would have known by the second pregnancy- nope! If you think you’re in labor and genuinely can’t determine if you are or not- go in. Better safe than sorry.

What Does Early Labor Feel Like?

These contractions will be fairly mild and last about 30-90 seconds. Early labor ends as your contractions get closer together, about 5 minutes apart. This is the point where you’ll still be able to talk, walk around and possibly snack on some food.

RELATED: 11 Ways To Induce Labor (FAST)

What Does Active Labor Feel Like?

As you go through active labor (contractions are 3-5 min apart and last 45-60 seconds) and get closer to transition, your contractions will get more intense with less rest time in between. They may start in your back and wrap around your torso. Everything turns rock hard and your legs may cramp during a contraction.

What Does Transition Feel Like?

This is when the cervix dilates from 7 to 10 cm and the pattern changes to 60-90 second contractions with 30 seconds to 2 minutes of rest. This is the hardest part and generally the shortest phase of labor. It’s INTENSE. There is almost no break close to the end when it’s time to push but at this point you KNOW it’s almost over, you’ve almost made it!

It’s Time! What Does Pushing Feel Like?

It’s very hard to put into the words the feeling of intense pressure you feel when you’re in the final stages of pushing your baby out. Not to scare you, but without the epidural, it literally felt like my body was ripping in two starting from my crotch. It also feels like an intense need to poop- which is kind of what you’re doing because it’s the same muscles used for that.

*A note about pooping- don’t worry about it. It’ll probably happen. The nurses are so professional, you might not even KNOW it happened. They just whisk it away as quickly as possible. I was so worried with my first baby. By my third I knew it happened and didn’t even care!

It’s also interesting how intense the need to push is- it’s indescribable. It takes over your whole body and you couldn’t stop it if you tried. Yell, scream, swear like a sailor. Do whatever you need to do to push that baby out!

RELATED: How To Have A Faster Labor

Your Baby Is Born- But What Does It Feel Like To Deliver The Placenta?

With your first baby, this can be a bit of a shock. The nurses will push down quite hard on your stomach to try and coax the placenta out. It’s honestly a really weird feeling because you do have to push again.

Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as painful as baby! Just… weird. It’s like this big rubbery thing that kind of gushes out.

What Does Going Into Labor Feel Like?

This is hard to answer. It’s different for every woman and every BIRTH.

With my 1st- my water ‘broke’ at 6am. But it wasn’t a lot of amniotic fluid. I wasn’t having many contractions but went to the hospital in the morning anyway cause oi! my water broke! They didn’t believe me. It took almost 2 hours for them to get a positive test, that YES, indeed, my water had broken. Then I was induced and shit hit the fan! It went from zero to a hundred REAL quick and I didn’t handle it well even with an epidural. When they handed my newborn daughter to me after giving birth, I didn’t even care. Yes, that sounds awful and it was. But that wasn’t my only experience!

RELATED: Postpartum Recovery Essentials (what you need to feel normal again!)

With my second, my water broke at 2 am. It was insane, a huge gush. I got an epidural as soon as we got to the hospital and spent the rest of the time chatting, relaxing and was surprised when the doctor said it was time to push. I pushed my son out in less than 5 minutes. This was at 9am. I was home by 6 that night and felt shockingly great!

With my 3rd, everything was fast and furious. I went into labor at 230 in the afternoon and had her at 6pm! No time for an epidural, barely any time to think. Yes, it was painful. But I was so happy I did it!

RELATED: The Best Ways To Induce Labor

The reason I’m telling you about my births is because I am ONE person- and look at how different each one was. My first birth almost scared me off of having anymore kids.

My biggest piece of advice?


Don’t fight it, don’t worry if things don’t go according to ‘plan.’ Nature has a plan and you don’t have any clue what that is. If you end up need a c-section or you can’t get an epidural? Accept it and get through it. You have GOT THIS!!!!

RELATED: Labor Signs- Is It REALLY Happening?

Are You Scared Of Giving Birth?

How can you not be? Every woman is scared in some sense. Whether it’s scared of actually pushing your baby out or more emotional fears like your life completely changing and this new responsibility.

Please read this book. if you’re at all scared of giving birth. Every pregnant woman should read this.

It has wonderful positive birth stories- not horror stories. And it talks about ways to minimize pain during childbirth. Ease your worries and fears.

You can find a copy here.

RELATED: No BS Hospital Bag Checklist (you’re NOT moving in)

RELATED: No BS C-Section Hospital Bag Checklist

Real Moms Describe What Labor And Childbirth Is Like:

I had a really big takeaway from my first experience that’s kind of been like an underlying theme of motherhood – let go of the expectations and standards that you think you’re supposed to meet during labor and delivery. I had this idea of how it was supposed to go and it didn’t go that way at all! And it caused me more stress and disappointment than I needed. The next time around I had zero expectations – I was ready to just roll with it and the experience was much better because of that.

Jen at Makin Mommy Moves

I was induced with my first child, I honestly thought I was dying, I was puking and passed out a couple of times for a few hours. My hormones must have been off the charts, I was crying so much they sent a social worker into my room. The actual delivery hurt worse than my almost full back tattoo.

My second labor was relatively easy. I went into labor while finishing packing for moving from one state to another. It was more of a dull pain during labor. The delivery wasn’t that bad either, I remember that birth being a peaceful birth. It just felt like something very large was trying to push its way out of me, one of her shoulders got stuck. But other than the stinging while they were stitching me up, it wasn’t bad.

For my third, it was really painful again. So painful, like a super strong need to push, even just at 2 centimeters. I had to take a warm bath in attempt to calm the intense pain with each contraction. It came in waves, each one more intense. We almost didn’t make it to the hospital because I hardly had time between contractions to get dressed in anything to go. It was so painful that I couldn’t even move during them. For the delivery, all I can remember is the stinging.

Shawna at Stress Less Be Healthy

Not all birth stories are scary. My first I would say was like having a good crap, my second was like auditioning for a cirque de sole contortionist role followed by a good crap.

Brittany at One Weird Momma

You can read Brittany’s full birth stories here and here.

I can’t even remember the pain of my 3rd (no pain meds) because of the complete high I felt afterward. But the first was an epidural TOLAC with csection and retained placenta and I remember the pain. It’s amazing how an unimpeded birth with proper hormone release changes what a mother remembers.9:07 Actually, I don’t think the last stage of labor, the 20 minutes of pushing was, was any pain at all. Just a relief. It was the back labor leading up to it that bugged me but I can’t recall it now. I just know I yelled a lot and freaked out the older two kids

Charisty at Fire Dept. Family

The Take Away:

Giving birth is one of the most intense things you’ll ever do- whether it’s naturally, vaginally or by c-section. Whether you have a ton of pain or not much at all. Simply because this is a huge pivotal moment in your life!

Don’t stress about a plan. Listen to your body. Try not to wish you were somewhere else when the pain becomes too much to bear. ‘Lean’ into the pain and accept what is happening to you.

It WILL end, and you WILL get to meet your beautiful baby. Sending you so much luck and love on your journey ❤ Is this your first pregnancy? Let me know if you’re ready to rock or feeling a bit scared in the comments! I’d love to connect with you 🙂