Labor Contractions: What Do They Feel Like?

Labor contractions – regular involuntary contractions of muscles of the uterus, which a woman in labor cannot handle. True contractions. The shortest last 20 seconds with 15 minutes pause. The longest lasts 60 seconds with 2-3 minutes of pauses.

The last trimester of the pregnancy – is the most exciting period for a woman. The sooner the due date is – the more questions appear. Among the most actual are the questions about prenatal contractions. How do they start and how does it feel and does the pain take place in that case. That is the most frightening process for those who are pregnant for the first time. In reality, there are no reasons to be nervous. Pain may seem stronger if too many negative emotions affect a woman. The less time is spent in fear of contractions – the easier the childbirth will proceed. Also, there are methods that allow for minimizing the pain during that natural process.

How to Recognize the Contractions before Giving Birth?

A woman, that is bearing a child under her heart may get confused by false (training) contractions. They may start in the twentieth week of pregnancy. False contractions before childbirth may cause slight discomfort, though appear to be irregular, short-lasting, and, in most cases, painless. The uterine tension may be reduced by a warm bath or walking. True contractions are the main precursor of the upcoming childbirth.

What do contractions before childbirth feel like? The feelings and sensations vary from woman to woman. Everything depends on the physiological features of the pregnant and the fetus’s positioning. For example, some women may feel a weak aching pain in the lumbar region, which, after a certain period, spreads to the abdomen and pelvis belting the core.


Some women admit that the discomfort from the contractions is similar to discomfort during menstruation. The pain increases at a time. It may seem that uterus is hardening when contractions take place. It may be noted by putting the hand on the stomach. All the mentioned symptoms may be observed in the case of false contractions as well. How to tell the real contractions from those false contractions?

There are common signs, which may help a pregnant woman to identify the upcoming childbirth: the regularity of occurrence, gradually increasing regularity, pain increasing at a time. In the beginning, a woman may feel contractions after a long period of time. The pain is not strong in that case.

The time intervals between contractions gradually decrease and the pain increases. According to the main symptoms of the contractions, 3 phases of the process may be distinguished: initial (latent), active, and transitional. The initial lasts for 7-8 hours on average. The duration of contractions is maybe 30-45 seconds and the interval between them – is about 5 minutes. During that period cervix dilates about 0-3 centimeters. The active phase usually lasts for 3-5 hours, contractions may be about 60 seconds long.

The interval between contractions is about 2-4 minutes. Cervix dilates to 3-7 centimeters. Transitional phases (deceleration phase) are the shortest. It lasts for about 0,5-1,5 hours. The contractions become longer. Now they last for 70-90 seconds. The interval between contractions becomes shorter than that of previous stages. Every 0,5-1 minute a pregnant woman may feel contractions of the uterus. And the cervix dilates up to 7-10 centimeters. Contractions during the second pregnancy are also proceeding in three periods but all of them last less than in the first pregnancy.

What to do when Contractions Start?

In the case of contractions, a pregnant woman should calm down as vanity is not the best assistant. Preferably, the woman should take a comfortable position on the armchair, chair, or bed and begin to fixate the duration of each contraction as well as the interval between them. All the information should be written down. Thinking of what is more painful – the contractions or childbirth itself is not preferable. The fear may cause the pain to feel unbearable.

If the contractions do not last for long and the interval between each one is long enough (20-30 minutes) the childbirth is not likely to happen soon. In that case, the woman will be able to pack everything she needs and call the ambulance or get driven to the hospital. If there is someone to help the woman, she may take a warm shower. If the interval between contractions is 5-7 minutes it is necessary to go to the hospital immediately.

The visit to the hospital should not be delayed in any circumstances. Even though the first stage may last for a couple of hours. Amniotic fluid (water) may break earlier and it is better to be under gynecologists’ observation during that period. It is forbidden to take either a warm or hot bath as it may cause infectious complications, bleeding, embolism, and placental abruption.

How do cause Contractions and Childbirth?

Most women give birth by the 37th-40th week. However, there are cases when pregnancy may proceed up to 41, 42, and even 43 weeks. In such cases, women get really nervous as they really intend to see their child. The fear grows because of the fact that the nutrient environment of the child may “grow old” and be insufficient for the baby to stay alive in the uterus: the fetus may die and the contractions may never start. That is why, after the pregnancy crosses the mark of 40 weeks, the woman should get under the observation of a specialist.


At placenta aging, the contractions may be stimulated to cause birth. That should be assigned by the doctor according to the indications. If there are no pathologies and amniotic fluids are clean there is no necessity to cause the contractions. Everything should be done in time. In case there are some violations the doctor will offer causing contractions. And there are no reasons to refuse. Contractions may be caused on your own. For example, it is recommended to spend more time standing, walking, and moving, but not getting tired or stressed as it will not be helpful. The feelings of contractions before childbirth maybe even caused by sex. Semen contains prostaglandin that prepares the cervix for childbirth by softening it. Sexual arousal and orgasm tone up the body and cause uterine contractions as well.

Contractions may also be caused by breast massage. It may be performed since the 37th week of pregnancy. The hormone oxytocin is produced during the massage that can cause the contractions of the uterus. Massage allows not only to stimulate the birth but to prepare the skin on the nipple for breastfeeding. Also, the so-called folk methods of causing contractions to exist but trying them are not preferable. For example, some herbal teas may have a negative effect on the mothers’ or child’s health as some herbs are contraindicated to pregnancy and may even lead to miscarriage.