What Does Giving Birth Feel Like?

The Real Scoop on Labor and Delivery

When the topic of childbirth comes up, women are often eager to share their stories. Some may describe giving birth as the most painful thing they’ve ever experienced. Others may report a much easier delivery that has left them with nothing but fond memories. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!), it’s not possible to predict how your labor and delivery will feel.

How Do Contractions Feel?

A newborn mixed race asian caucasian in a blue cap baby rest on his brunette asian mothers chest and stares into her eyes for the first time

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In addition to feeling differently for every woman, contractions can even vary from one pregnancy to the next. They may feel like a tightening in the lower abdomen that causes discomfort and they may or may not include an ache across the lower back. Some women liken contractions to intense period cramps. When contractions precede true labor, they cannot be eliminated by changing position. In between contractions, most women feel a reprieve from the pain or discomfort. When contractions occur at regular intervals, and as the time between them becomes shorter, delivery is typically drawing near. The pain may intensify, and some women experience other symptoms such as nausea, leg cramps or pressure in their rectum.

Giving Birth Without an Epidural

When it comes time to deliver, some women describe the experience as an urge to push, similar to having a bowel movement, but far more intense. Others find the pain more difficult to bear. Then there are women who find the pain manageable and report feeling some relief when they get to push. You may also hear women refer to the “ring of fire.” This is the point during delivery when the baby’s head is showing through the vagina. It is known as crowning. The burning sensation some women experience at this point comes from the vaginal opening being stretched.

Giving Birth With an Epidural

A newborn mixed race asian caucasian in a blue cap baby rest on his brunette asian mothers chest and stares into her eyes for the first time

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Some women choose to have an epidural to help ease the pain during delivery. An epidural does not result in a complete lack of feeling but rather, lessens the sensations felt in the lower half of the body. Some women find that the epidural weakens the intensity of their contractions. It may also make the ring of fire less intense or even unnoticeable. Following delivery, women may continue to feel some numbness in their lower body until the effects of the epidural wear off.

Giving Birth to Twins

When delivering twins, there may be a few minutes or up to a half hour or more in between their births. Some women report their labor and delivery of twins to be similar to having a single birth. The main difference of course, is that after delivering the first baby, there is still another one to come! Contractions typically start back up, and mom has to begin pushing again. With twins, like singles, women may be able to choose an epidural to ease the pain of childbirth.