What Do Labor Contractions REALLY Feel Like?

Updated: August 7, 2020
Labor can range from excruciating to barely a cramp. Read how real moms describe what labor contractions really feel like!

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Some women sail through labor contractions not even knowing if they are even in labor, and others have the complete opposite experience. Most women do feel contractions, and they try to explain it to friends, family and husbands the best they can - but we want the details of what they really feel like.

One mom named Kerrie said her husband asked her mid-contraction, "Does it feel like you drank a Coke really fast?" Alas, Kerrie, a mom of two, was not amused and no it did not. She described it best as, "trying to poop out a watermelon."

More: Signs and Symptoms of Labor

I am a mom of four boys and can only say that right before a labor contraction it felt like that powerful, uncontrollable sensation you'd have when you have a horrible stomach flu and can't stop vomiting and there's nothing you can do to stop it. I could feel it coming like a roiling, unstoppable freight train and then it would overtake every fiber of my being. It was the worst pain I've felt in my entire life but its power was beyond what I had imagined.

Here's what other moms had to say:

Bradley Method Labor

"The contractions felt like very heavy menstrual cramps. I just got it as a beautiful pain in the sense that every time I was contracting my body was hugging me and bringing him to me." Susan, mom of one.

"Contractions felt like intense period-like cramps that came on slowly overnight, then got exponentially worse suddenly. They were like a stabbing sensation in my lower belly!" Talene, mom of one.

"Contractions in early labor felt like a radiating heat starting in my back. Active labor contractions felt like something was ripping my spine apart vertebrae by vertebrae. With my last child, I took the epidural. I was professing love to the anesthesiologist." Anastasia, mom of four.

"Early on they felt like PMS cramps, but then they felt like steel band being squeezed around my lower abdomen." Lisa, mom of two.

"I personally thought that with twins, I had a stomachache after eating bologna and chocolate glazed cheesecakes together and that was the day before their due date. It felt like they were pushing from the sides." Maya, mom of three.

pregnant woman having contraction on couch

"Waves of increasing abdominal intense Charlie Horses." Jodi, mom of three.

More: The Stages of Labor

"When they finally started to be the painful (cervix changing) contractions they felt like burning, wrapping around to my lower back, very much like the worst possible menstrual cramps you could imagine. The kind that used to make me sick to my stomach in high school. At first it made me laugh thinking that the ones I thought I was having weeks leading up to labor were in fact nothing at all." Darlene, three kids.

"Waves of intense menstrual cramps with little breaks in between until the very very end (transition) when there is no break or relief but then baby is born. It was like that for all five kids." Jeanne, mom of five.

"Felt like horrendous menstrual cramps combined with needing to poop. It was the same with both kids." Michele, two kids.

"Thunder rolling through my body." Stacey, mom of three.

"Early on it was a like a little muscle spasm. As the day went on, I started to experience a little more discomfort like a dull ache in my pelvic area. In the evening the dull ache turned into sharp pain, like a bad menstrual cramp. I felt like I was experiencing all the menstrual cramps that I didn't have during my pregnancy all at once with an extra year's worth thrown in just for kicks, and then magnified by a thousand." Michelle mom of one.

"My labor contractions were painful but what I remember so vividly is how huge and powerful and all-consuming they were. Every bit of my mind and body was riding a huge tidal wave that was out of my control entirely, but was also so amazing to experience because I was fully aware this was my body's own force working to bring the baby earth side. Don't get me wrong. They hurt like hell but their power is what sticks with me more than the pain for some reason." Nicole, mom of two.

"Contractions with baby number one felt distinctly like a fireball being jet propelled to try to escape out of my back. With baby number two, I didn't get any vivid visual or anything like that, but for a couple hours before the baby was born the contractions felt like the most horrendous unbelievable pressure. Pressure like I didn't even know pressure that strong could exist." Lindsey, mom of two.

"To me contractions felt like every nerve ending in my whole body was being electrocuted. The pain coming on beginning in my uterus and quickly spreading to every inch of my body. Any movement of any inch of my body, even breathing during a contraction would shoot even more unimaginable pain to my uterus to the point I thought I was going to pass out or at least hoped I would just so I could feel instant relief and not has to wait for the pain to recede." Randi, mom of one.

"With my first child, I had a few shooting pains in my lower back, zero typical stomach area pain. I could feel my stomach getting hard with my fingertips, but no pain whatsoever and she was born in the ER as she came so quickly! My second, I came home from work and just felt off. I felt tired, more tired than usual. I laid down for a couple minutes when I got home, and as soon as I stood up, my water broke. I still had no pain, just was releasing water every few minutes with each contraction. He was born right after I got to the hospital." Gina, mom of two.

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About the author
Laura Richards

Laura Richards is a writer, journalist, communications, brand, and PR specialist with 20+ years of experience. She’s also a mother of four so understands the joys and struggles of parenting.