Hooray! You have reached the final stretch of your pregnancy and you will soon be holding your baby in your arms. But, before you get to that sweet moment, you are going to have to go through labor. You are probably starting to wonder what labor feels like. You are not alone! All first-time moms want to know what to expect.
Unfortunately, it is very hard to explain. This is partly because every woman’s labor is unique and it is described in all sorts of ways. For example, do contractions feel like you have to poop? Some women would say they do feel like you are about to have a painful bowel movement, but most would describe them as a cramping feeling. Let’s look at more ideas.
Beware of False Labor
By now, you are probably aware of the possibility of experiencing false labor. Braxton Hicks can cause you to feel mild cramping, which many women think are true contractions. The big differences are that Braxton Hicks contractions do not come at regular intervals or increase in intensity; they also may only be felt on one side only. Plus, they do not open the cervix.
If you do head to the hospital believing you are in labor only to discover it was Braxton Hicks, do not feel bad! It happens. Keep paying attention to your body and the big deal will arrive soon enough.
Know the Signs Labor is About to Begin
If you are feeling anxious and wondering what signs to look for, there are a few clear signs. However, labor can still surprise you! If your doctor has said your cervix has begun dilating, this is a true sign. Additionally, if you lose your mucous plug, labor is near.
Finally, if your water breaks, labor has started. People may tell you other signs, but these are the best indicators.
What Do Contractions Feel Like
As I mentioned earlier, all women describe contractions differently. Some of the most common descriptions include menstrual cramping, gas pain, and back aches. Others describe feeling their uterus tightening. For some, the sudden pain takes their breath away. No matter what they feel like in the beginning, true contractions will increase in the amount and the intensity.
Baby Centre explains, “Your womb (uterus) has a powerful muscular wall that tightens and then relaxes. In the first stage of labour, your contractions gradually open your cervix. In the second stage of labour they ease your baby down through your basement (birth canal) and out. In the third stage of labour, they dislodge the placenta and seal off blood vessels, as your womb (uterus) contracts down.”
The first stage of early labor is the latent stage. It is during this stage when you may lose your mucous plug. Contractions may begin, but they may be as far apart as 20 minutes. At this point, you will still be able to move around. Unfortunately, this latent stage can range from a few hours to a few days.
Active labor is the second stage. It is at this point that your cervix has dilated at least 4cm and your baby has begun to move into the pelvis. This is when your contractions become much stronger and more intense. They will also arrive closer together giving you fewer breaks in between.
The last part of this stage of pregnancy is the transition. This is when your cervix has dilated to at least 8cm. It is during this stage when the strongest contractions are felt and they are the closest together. This is also the time when moms may feel like they have to poop.
Then, You Push
Once the first full stage of labor (latent, active, and transition) is over, you move on to the second stage of labor. This is when you push. The amount of time it takes moms to push and welcome their babies to the world varies. But, at the end of this stage, your sweet baby will be in your arms! Finally, your baby is here.
After your baby’s arrival, you must then deliver the placenta. Trust me when I tell you that you will not even realize this is happening because you will be in new mom bliss.
To Wrap Up
I know it can be overwhelming trying to understand what contractions feel like for the first time, but you will know when labor has started. It is very rare that a woman does not know she is in labor. Pay attention to your body and look for clear labor signs.
In addition, pay attention to your contractions. True contractions have a pattern and increase in intensity and duration. If you notice a cramping feeling that continues to strengthen and is coming in regular intervals, this is very likely true labor contractions.