What giving birth really feels like, according to experienced moms

You may be fascinated by what it’s like to have a baby, whether you’ve got one, are expecting one, will soon or one day watch someone have one, or never plan on being a parent. knowing what childbirth feels like will help to inform, prepare, and empower those who have yet to take that leap. No two births are ever the same.

Read what these experienced moms have to say about childbirth.

  • As a first-time mom, I had a difficult time deciding if I was in labor or if I was having Braxton Hicks contractions. My symptoms did not fit into either category. I had a lot of cramping under my belly, not radiating from the top down or in my back like the books said. When I finally went in to the hospital to be checked, sure I would be sent home, I was told that I was actually in labor. – Tamara, St. Louis Park, MN
  • With both my babies I didn’t experience normal contractions. Instead I felt like I was having one long contraction that felt like the worst menstrual cramps I had ever had. – Rebecca, Layton, UT
  • I was told it would feel like very bad menstrual cramps but that’s not what it felt like to me. It was much more intense and it was almost all in my lower back. Every time a contraction would come, my lower back would slowly begin to seize up. It was kind of like the muscles inside were slowly twisting harder and harder until it became almost unbearable, and then it would slowly subside. It was still much more painful than I had imagined it would be. – Angelina, Ellicott City, MD
  • To me, labor felt like the worst menstrual cramp or gas pain that you’ve ever had, combined with someone stabbing you in the stomach! It would subside and come back until the beautiful epidural lady came to save me. – Rebecca, Indianapolis, IN
  • The pain is like having your insides twisted, pulled, and squeezed. If I fought it, the pain became worse. Once I surrendered to and accepted the pain, it was more bearable. It is like getting caught in the undertow of a wave. Being trapped underwater is scary – you can fight it and get more scared or you can just let go and wait until the wave releases you. Also, there was an intense searing pain in my lower back, which was helped when my husband applied pressure to it. – Tommasina, Canton, GA
  • I would consider labor pains as menstrual cramps multiplied by a million. It feels like your abdomen is trying to squeeze out all its contents, not just the baby. They come in waves and varying intensity throughout the laboring process. I would go from a pretty tolerable one to an extremely intense one the next time. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and it is definitely the hardest thing I have ever done. – Amanda, Reading, MA
  • The best description I can offer of how the pain actually felt was like a deep internal “pulling” –like someone kept reaching up deep inside me, grabbing hold of whatever internal organs they could, and trying to tug them out. – Jennifer, Olympia, WA
  • My labor pain felt like my hips were being pulled apart! – Nancy, Pico Rivera, CA

RELATED: What Labor Contractions Feel Like 

  • My labor was wonderful. I went in for my 36th week visit and the midwife was checking to see if I was dilated. She got a funny look on her face and told me I was five centimeters dilated and 90 percent effaced! I went to the hospital, got an epidural, and four hours later had a baby girl virtually pain free. – Jamie, Canton, GA
  • After my water broke is when the real pain started. It was more of a tightening that got worse and worse until it peaked, then dropped off. If I could have had this particular pain once an hour or even once every 15 minutes, I’d have been able to tolerate it. But the fact that just as soon as you get through one contraction another is coming, that’s what wears you down. – Valerie, Clawson, MI
  • I didn’t have much pain until my water broke. The pain was so bad that in the middle of one contraction I imagined that I walked away from my body. I tried to picture myself walking on the beach. Of course, that didn’t work and my next thought was of the epidural. – Andrea, Trenton, NJ
  • At first it was not so bad but after my water broke, the contractions were horrible. It felt like someone had taken hold of my insides and were wringing them out like a wet dishrag. – Theresa, Youngstown, OH
  • My first child was born while I was under the influence of a walking epidural. I did not find that this really relieved my pain but rather made my labor feel like a nasty stomach virus. I swore I would never have anesthesia again because of how awful I felt afterwards. My second baby was born naturally. I found this labor to be much easier to cope with. The pain was very intense, but it was a clean pain almost like a sports injury. Pushing was more difficult. It felt like my whole pelvis was made of breaking glass, but this passed very quickly and I felt terrific almost immediately after delivery. – Jessica, Danby, VT
  • Labor pain was the most excruciating pain I ever felt. The good news is that in between contractions there is no pain, and the contractions only last about a minute. I had four children with no pain medication. – Cindy, Vestal, NY
  • Labor was by far the hardest physical activity I have ever participated in. But once you get to the pushing stage and have that feeling that is similar to having a bowel movement, you are almost done. And you know that if you can just make it through the last little part, you will meet this wonderful little person you have dreamed about for so long! – Kari, Onalaska, WI
  • Pushing was the worst. I could feel every stretch, pull, and tear. The burning was like no other. I remember feeling there was no way I could push the baby out, it won’t fit. But once all was done, I was so happy to hold our precious baby. It was all worth it.  – Sharon, Danbury, CT
  • The pain of my labor came in waves, where I could feel it begin, crest, and subside. During the crests, it was hard to remember to breathe, as it felt like my body was one big leg cramp, kind of like I was a towel being twisted and curled in half. But when it’s all said and done and you’re looking at your little joy, you know you’d go through it all again. – Kathy, Appleton, WI