What does labour feel like?

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What the heck will labour feel like?! This is a thought that plagues pregnant women… We get it, we were there too. Our latest vlog will walk you through why you have the feelings you do with your contractions/surges. Want to know why we say child birth hurts like $&@*?! Check out this blog post here.


Keep in mind that it is different for absolutely everyone, but let’s give it our best shot! 

Braxton Hicks

During pregnancy women experience braxton hicks or “practice labour” although they may not be noticeable until later in the pregnancy. She may feel tightening, some sensation, some say it is very painless, others disagree. There is also the visual part of it, some women can feel the belly get hard like a rock, round in shape,  and it might hold that for a few seconds. Then it releases. 

Early Labour Feeling

Early labour would be the very beginning stages of labour where contractions are happening kind of frequently but there is no real pattern to it. 

At the bottom of the uterus is the cervix, which is made of mostly of connective tissue and muscle. This cervix is often hard, long and pointed towards a woman’s back and during labour a lot of changes need to take place. The cervix needs to get thinner, softer, and move forward, which is why this early stage is quite often the longest. Because there is so much happening with the cervix, women will often feel cramping down low. They may even feel achy down the legs and in the lower back, similar to menstruation.

Active Labour

As labour progresses and we get more into active labour, opening (dilation) starts to happen. The long muscles of the uterus begin to pull up and the baby’s head begins to put pressure on the cervix, both actions aiding in dilation. That sensation, that crampy like sensation from early labour, may intensify and begin to radiate upwards towards the top of the uterus. For some it actually feels like a “lifting up” as the long muscles pull up. If you put your hand on top of your belly, you can feel it get harder, sometimes as hard as your forehead.

One major characteristic of active labour is that the contractions become very regular and regardless of the position you move into, the contractions continue to happen.  They tend to start off easier, build in intensity (the peak) and then slowly go away…until the next one! Some women can feel the coming before they even start, they are the “oh here we go again” moments, so starting a breathing techniques right away can help with coping.

Feeling more pressure is also a normal sensation during this stage of labour as there is so much more happening.  Some women say it is painful, some say it is more fatiguing and tiring because the contractions keep coming even if you sit down or stand up. There are things that you can do that make them feel worse though, like laying on your back. Being able to move around and do what you want to do and relax and keep the lights low is going to help with that intensity, if you are feeling intensity. Some women will even feel the intensity in their lower back as well and down their legs as well. 


As labour continues, the baby starts to make its way down through the pelvis. As this happens the baby’s head begins to put pressure on your bum. It starts to feel like you need to have a bowel movement or have an uncontrollable urge to bare down. For many women, it really is an unmistakable feeling. Which is great, because it means that you have probably made it to 10 centimeters, and it is time to push. There may even be a bit of a break before pushing and the contractions can space out.

For many this pushing stage feels easier than the other stages as you are working with contractions rather than just coping with them. As the baby comes down and the pelvic floor begins to slowly stretch around the baby’s head there can be a burning sensation, which is completely normal.  There are ways that we can minimize that feeling,  especially if we can allow labour to go at it’s own pace (pushing when there is an urge) and choosing a birth position that feels right.

If you want to know a little more, we do have a blog post that is appropriately titled Why Does Labour Hurt Like $&@*?! where we talk about alleviating some of the sensation women feel through labour. That is, in a nutshell, kind of, sort of, maybe, what labour feels like. If you want to weigh in and help out your fellow woman as she heads towards birth, tell us what labour felt like for you, there is a comments section below! 

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