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What Does Labour Feel Like? Real Mums Get Honest!

When I was pregnant with my first baby, “What does labour feel like?” was the main question I asked everyone else I knew who had given birth.  What does labour feel like?  I can’t say I got any helpful answers at all!

I had been terrified of labour and childbirth for as long as I can remember.  I’d watched too many TV shows and films that had depicted it as the worst pain imaginable and a horrible, screaming affair lasting hours or days.  Maybe for some ladies that is the case of course.

Having spoken to friends and other ladies who have given birth since I did, it became clear that no-one has the exact same experience in labour.  In fact, both of my own experiences were very different from each other too.

The second time around, as my due date loomed closer, I began to wonder if I’d even know that I was in labour.  I took to google many times to search for ‘early labour symptoms’.

Baby in crib

Then I thought, why am I asking google when I have a wonderfully knowledgeable community of mummies right on my doorstep in the mummy blogging world to ask what does labour feel like for you!  So I asked some fellow Mums to best describe their experiences to give me and you an idea of what you might expect IF you’re interested.  If you would rather not know what others went through then please click away now.  In fact, why not click here and find out about me instead :) or read my Weekly Pregnancy Updates.

Still with me?  Ok, here are the great, the ok and the ugly of what labour felt like for these ladies:

What Does Labour Feel Like?

What does labour really feel like?

“I had irregular tightening for 24 hours which weren’t particularly painful but different to Braxton Hicks.  Then over breakfast the next day they were more regular and more painful!  All in my tummy, no back pains.”

Hannah at Budding Smiles

“For me it was just another ache, much like every other ache I had in pregnancy (backache and Braxton Hicks).  I failed to believe it was actually labour until my waters broke!”

Elaine at Canvas Pretty

“I felt like I needed the loo!”

Rachel at Parenthood Highs and Lows

“I just felt different.  Bump was hard and tight and there were little rippling contractions.”

Kate at My Family Fever

“I had a false start the week before so expected something to happen.  Over the weekend I had a show which was slow over a few days.  When I was having contractions I was texting my midwife sister and two friends as I was still not convinced!  I was induced with my first so had no clue!  Froglet arrived 4 weeks early.”

Chelle at The Mumington Post

“I had back labour, I didn’t feel a single pain in my stomach the entire time.  At first I thought it wasn’t labour as I had expected to feel it in my tummy!”

Alex at Bump to Baby

“I woke up in the early hours of the morning feeling not quite right.  I couldn’t explain what I was feeling but I knew something was different.

Angela at The Life of Spicers

“I was induced but my early labour was just like period pains for me with a few tightenings.  Pain was mostly in my back, my daughter came out nearly stargazing so she was almost back to back.”

Maddy at The Speed Bump

“I was asleep for two of them and only woke up for the interesting bit.”

Jenny at The Brick Castle

“I woke up at 7am, rushed to the bathroom because I knew something was happening (even before fully awake).  My waters went, on the toilet and as that happened the pains started very quickly and very strong.”

Laura at Petit Moi – Big World

“A dull aching in my back which slowly came round like cramps to the front.”

Caroline at Mrs Magovern

“Cramps that felt like strong period pains.  I was putting the Christmas tree up at around midday on 1st Dec when they started & by 18:18 he was here!”

Michelle at Life Writes The Story

“I remember terrible pain, I had never experienced period pain or anything like it and it felt like my whole below was tightening and would stay that way for a little and when it ebbed off it was the best feeling.  And when I knew one was coming I couldn‘t help but tense up.  I also remember when I was waiting to go to hospital and when I was about 5cm dialted, I really felt like I needed to poop but couldn’t!”

Rachael at Lukeosaurus and Me

“I had sharp pains going down the front of my thighs.”

Nicola at Life Through My Eyes

“I have had four babies, each one completely different.  Also had them in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s!!”

Kaz at Ickle Pickle’s Life – what does back labour feel like?

I remember waking up, running to the bathroom with my legs closed, my waters broke just as I made it to the bathroom.  I then had seriously bad back ache.  All of the pain/pressure was in my back, I didn’t feel anything in my tummy.  When I had a contraction it felt like someone was standing on my back, and my tummy just felt tight.  (Turned out little miss Emily was back to back).”

Stephanie at Raising Emily

“Labour really began for me when my waters went with a gush (during my first pregnancy) which was followed by mild aching and cramps before quickly moving on to quite painful tightenings.  My tummy literally went solid with each contraction which was rather uncomfortable.  For my second child my waters didn’t break at all and my son was born in the sac on my ensuite floor!  The pains were fast and intense from the very beginning and I was sick with each one due to the shock and pressure combination.”

Emma at The Mini Mes and Me

“I was induced by every method going, so I was on and off labour for about a week.  I actually thoroughly enjoyed every tightening and tense muscle, it was a positive sort of pain.”

Rebecca at Indy Plays

“I had Braxton Hicks type feelings at first so the tightening and shortness of breath and then full labour started when my waters broke with a loud popping noise (eek!).  I was induced.”

Jade at Late for Reality

“My early labour started as a tightening/hardening of my stomach with no real pain.  I remember watching and feeling my belly go hard and being fascinated.  The problem was this would go on for days/weeks and would gradually get more painful until it would start keeping me awake during the night.  This lead to a very grumpy and irritated pregnant woman.”

Nikki at Keeping Strong and Moving Forward

“Aches in my back and lady bits.  So mild initially that I could sleep through them and it took me about an hour to realise what they were despite being 11 days over and on high alert for anything remotely labour related!”

Sian at Dazed and Mumfused

“Two back labours here.  The pain was intense and radiated across my back and down through the back of my thighs.  It meant I couldn’t sit or lie down comfortably.  The best position was standing leaning against the wall or my OH, or kneeling and leaning on something.  With the first I had a show and my waters broke.  With the second my waters didn’t break until ten minutes before she was born in the pool when they went with a loud pop!”

Pippa at Red Rose Mummy

“I just felt Braxton Hicks, it was only the waters breaking that made me sure it was happening and then the fact they were consistent when timed.  Mine was a back labour, but I ended up getting induced as nothing really progressed from the early stages.”

Donna at The London Mum

“Labour started out like mild period cramps and then progressed to pain in my back.  With back labour I felt no pain in my stomach the entire time.”

Karina at Mums the Nerd

“Mine started out like period pains coming and going.  Had no idea it was the real deal until my waters broke in true movie style.”

Emily at Emily and Indiana

“I had back labour and it felt like I had slipped a disk or broken the bottom of my spine!!!”

Mary at My Model Mummy

“If my waters hadn’t broken and I’d not gone into hospital to be induced/monitored I’d have had no idea that I was in labour.  I was on a drip for 13 hours, for most of that I couldn’t feel anything other than a bit of lower back ache and a slight pressure.  I could tell when the contractions were coming even if I watched the monitor.  But then we gave up at 3cm because in 13 hours I’d only gone 2 cm, so had to have a cs.”

Emma at Bubba Blue and Me

“With the boys I felt unwell the day before, tummy ache and not feeling that with it.  Charlotte they broke my waters for me but I worked darn hard bringing on those contractions by walking lots.”

Emma at Me, The Man and The Baby

“I had false labour two weeks before and I now believe that I was probably in early labour for the next two weeks.  I felt very nauseous, upset stomach and the odd twinge.  When I actually went into labour my waters broke with a gush.  I had my first contraction 2 hours later and then 2 hours after that I was in hospital and was 9cm dilated.  So for me from my first contraction it was all very intense and quick.”

Lucy at Mrs H’s Favourite Things

So there you have it – real women describing their real experiences of labour.  For some, crazily intense and others who barely felt a thing! My two labours shared similarities but also big differences.  My first baby was 3 weeks’ early and my second was a few days late.  For both, I was lucky to hypnobirth after attending classes during my first pregnancy.

My solution

If you have any fear associated with childbirth or labour at all, I cannot recommend hypnobirthing enough.  I attended a 5 week class.  I entered the first class feeling sick with fear and on the verge of tears thinking about my impending labour and I left that very first class feeling strong, in control and eagerly anticipating the birth!  You can read all about my hypnobirth experience with my first baby here.

What was your experience of labour and childbirth?  Or, if you’re pregnant, are you excited or nervous about your upcoming birth-day?

Disclosure:  Links above are affiliate links and might earn me a few pence if you purchase anything :) This does not affect the price you pay.

Read next:


What Does Labour Feel Like? Real Mums Get Honest! Love from Mim

Linked to You Baby Me Mummy, Mummascribbles and Honest Mum



  1. Lisa Backsnbumps
    / 4:24 pm

    It just goes to show everyone labour’s differently. With my first I was climbing the walls, with the second I was much more in control. Maybe I had a lot more confidence in my body and myself that I could get through this.
    It really is a very different pain from an illness, I guarantee I’ve been in lots more pain than giving birth since having the 2 boys. At least the pain comes and goes and allows you to prepare yourself.
    The other positive is you know it’s normal to be in pain and why. You will get the most amazing gift at the end of it. :-)

    • / 8:05 pm

      That’s so true – same for me, every time I had a contraction it was getting me closer to meeting my baby :) x

  2. / 4:19 pm

    Really interesting to hear a range of mums’ experiences of labour! I’m currently 29 weeks pregnant, and even though I’ve done it all before my daughter is 3), I’m still a little nervous as to what to expect this time round.

    • / 7:01 pm

      Ooh I hope you’re feeling well! I wish you a lovely labour :) :)

  3. Rob
    / 9:40 pm

    As a man who will never know what labour feels like, this was a really interesting post. I think it’s great to read how different and unique the experience is for each mother. Great stuff. #BrilliantBlogPosts

    • / 8:04 pm

      Thank you! I should do a follow up asking for the man’s perspective to see how they differed to! :)

  4. Nicola
    / 8:14 am

    So interesting how we all experience labour so differently! My waters broke then I was having contractions every 3mins from the off!! Found your post via #brilliantblogposts, enjoyed reading everyone’s experiences!

    • / 7:01 pm

      Wow that was quick! I love hearing about everyone’s different experiences :)

  5. Catie
    / 8:06 am

    Wow so many different experiences. It is so hard to describe the feeling too. Both my boys were inductions. I started with lower back pain and period type pains and very quickly was in full labour. #brilliant blog posts

    • / 7:02 pm

      Your experience sounds very similar to my first one! :)

  6. Mummy Fever
    / 1:36 am

    I think that is the point isn’t it – that everyone’s experience is different. I have had 4 babies, each different but the first, third and fourth all long, painful and difficult. 2 out of the 4 were inductions and all babies were between 9 and 14 days overdue. My second was a water birth and the only one to be born the correct way around, the other 3 were all back to back and the first was a forceps delivery. #brilliantblogposts

    • / 7:39 am

      It’s crazy how different they are – I had 2 back to backs as well – ‘fun’! x

  7. Fern
    / 3:13 pm

    Im currently 19 weeks pregnant with baby 3.. daughter 1- was in lots of pain so went to the hospital, they gave me pethedine which stopped everything a few days later in apain again so went back and had an epidural (I was 20, I wasnt with babies dad & things wernt good between me and him so I was majorly stressed and scared!) I had my mum with me. she was due to be forced out (induction booked) for 8am that same morning she was born 3am, 5 hours before getting the boot! 12 days late.

    daughter 2- Normal day, OH got up for work, I contacted him about 9.30 saying I had stomach ache, he said he would make his way home from work, I told him it would probably stop soon! but he came home anyways. about 10.30 he was home and we where packing the hospital bag as pain was getting worse and I hadnt packed one yet.. 11 ish we called his sister to take us to the hospital, we got to the hospital and they said I was already 9 cm dialated, they broke my waters and within an hour Id had her, by 1.30 I was back home.. She was a week early and my partner was much better support than my dear mum was first time round!

    So this time Im planning on staying home for the birth, and hopefully hes as quick as his sister!

    • / 6:47 pm

      Wow that’s awesome! And how wonderful to have your partner to support you – it can make all the difference having a supportive person there :) Good luck with your next one! :)

  8. Claire
    / 3:21 am

    Oh my gosh – I just had my third baby and despite being a 2-time veteran of the birthing process, I still found myself up at night Googling things like “am I in early labor?” LOL. I LOVE reading birth stories because each is so unique and they’re such an amazing and beautiful part of the human experience!!

    I’ve had 3 pretty quick labors. The longest was the 3rd and it was only about 7 hours (5 of which I kept thinking it might not really be the real thing).

    Mine were all different – but each one was amazing!!!!

    • / 8:02 pm

      Ha ha I’m so glad it wasn’t just me! x

  9. Mummy Fever
    / 8:05 pm

    I think what this shows is that everyone’s experience is different. I have had four very painful, very long, very difficult labours, two of which were induced. Each time I had another baby I was told they would just pop out but my babies just aren’t born like that #TheList

    • / 8:01 pm

      I assumed my second would be much faster too – but noooo ha! x

  10. Catherine @pushingthemoon
    / 2:22 pm

    Love this post! My two labours were so different – both home births but the first was 36 hours and difficult resulting in a transfer to hospital and a stay on NICU for my son, and the second was 6 hours from first twinge to delivery and perfect in every way. Xxx #TheList

    • / 8:01 pm

      Ooh 6 hours sounds great! x

  11. Lizzie (firstooth)
    / 1:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story, I like to hear other peoples experiences. It’s always so different from every person and baby. I was strangely calm leading up to both births, everyone said I was unusually relaxed. I wasn’t nervous at all, just excited. I had great births both times, it wasn’t overly painful (the pushing) the contractions were like something I’ve never experienced and I was surprised the birth itself was less painful than those! #thelist

    • / 8:00 pm

      It’s amazing what we’re capable of isn’t it :) I’m so pleased you had such great experiences! x

  12. Baby Isabella
    / 11:45 am

    My mummy had a water birth with me. Awful back pain, hot spiky pineapple giving birth. Nice! Great informative post…nice getting everyone’s perspectives #TheList

    • / 7:59 pm

      Ha ha pineapple – you babies are hard work! :) x

  13. Zena's Suitcase
    / 11:20 am

    It’s so different for everyone isn’t it. My last labour was fine, just normal aches and pains until I went into transition. Then it was pretty significant. Fortunately baby arrived within 18 minutes, so it wasn’t for long really. Phew! #thelist

    • / 7:58 pm

      It really is :) Wow 18 minutes, that’s nice and fast for the last slog! x

  14. / 1:48 am

    I was always terrified by the thought of being pregnant and giving birth. It wasn’t any better second time, even though I had done it before – probably because it is having no control over it that I don’t like, & that doesn’t change however many times you do it! My labours were both very quick (the second ridiculously so), but because everything progressed very fast the contractions were always very close and very intense & made me sick. Interesting to read lots of different experiences – good idea for a post! #TheList

    • / 7:56 pm

      I hate not being in control too – hynobirthing definitely helped me with that a bit :) Your second labour was super quick!! x

  15. Emma's Mamma
    / 10:41 am

    What a great idea for a post! I had horrible pains but never an urge to push. Turned out Emma was back to back. I ended up having an epidural which was a very welcome break from the pain. Think I’ll have a look at hypobirth if a have another – sounds great! x #TheList

    • / 7:57 pm

      Thank you! I never had the urge to push either both times – that’s the only thing that confused me! :) x

  16. Mumma McD
    / 7:35 am

    My two were both so different – first one was posterior, 3 days of labour and horrendously painful! I ended up being induced, having an epidural and then being unable to walk due to pelvic ‘trauma’ for several days afterwards. Second time around was a dream – 3 hours from start to finish with 25 mins of pushing, on just a couple of paracetamol, and I was up, showered and ready to go home less than an hour after delivery!

    • / 7:57 pm

      Ooh 3 hours sounds perfect – just about enough ha!! x

  17. Caro | The Twinkles Mama
    / 10:15 pm

    Love this Mim!! I read it all with much interest!! The twins were transverse so I had an elective c-section and missed out on the whole labour thing. Shame cos I was really looking forward to the experience!! Some think I’m mad for looking forward to it but I really was — I’d heard so many different accounts from my friends, I wanted to experience it myself!! Maybe in another life… Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday — hope to see you again next week! x

    • / 7:55 pm

      Ooh I thought I had replied! Thank you :) :) :) x

  18. You Baby Me Mummy
    / 10:11 am

    Great to read all these different experiences. Mine was painful! Not an experience to be repeated. Fab post hun and thanks for linking up to #TheList xx

    • / 10:17 am

      We go through such a lot to bring out babies into the world! :) x

  19. / 3:45 pm

    I’ve had 2 labours and neither were great but I would probably still do it all again if I had to :-)

    Helen – #twinklytuesday

    • / 5:37 pm

      Aww – we do so much for our children, before they’re even born! :)

  20. Mummy Muddler
    / 12:45 pm

    Thank god I’m stopping at two is all I can say. I had a section with No.1 and then a VBAC. Glad I got to experience both but happy to never do either again!
    The only description anyone else gave me beforehand that rang true in the moment was that crowning felt like ‘a burning ring of fire’. I even cried, between pushes: ‘This is the burning ring of fire, isn’t it?’!


    • / 5:38 pm

      Ha haaa!! I was prepared for that but never got it! I am also totally and completely finished at 2 :) :)

  21. Jen @ 4,128 miles
    / 11:43 am

    Yikes! I remember it well the first time and I was overwhelmed by the pain. It is really interesting to hear everyones’ stories. They are all so different. I had a precipate labour – as soon as the midwives actually believed me and understood what was happening it was fine! I’m hanging onto that for number 2… Great post. #twinklytuesday

    • / 5:39 pm

      You totally have to trust your own body don’t you! Only you really know what’s happening :)

  22. Kirby Squires
    / 9:11 am

    I just always say to my friends that you’ll know when it’s labour, if you keep thinking ‘could this be it?’ Then it probably isn’t. I was shopping in Tesco when I went into labour with my 2nd,
    I was only 31 weeks and knew immediately xx

    • / 7:06 pm

      Wow that could have been big news for Tesco if you’d had it there ha ha! x

  23. wendy
    / 8:53 am

    What a brilliant post, really highlights the fact that labour is different for everyone. As far as labour goes mine wasn’t too bad, had a water birth with gas and air. It hurt like hell but much more manageable than I was expecting. This post will be useful for lots of pregnant ladies I’m sure xx #TwinklyTuesday

    • / 7:05 pm

      Ah thank you! The water is wonderful pain relief isn’t it :)

  24. Hannah Budding Smiles
    / 8:41 am

    It really is so different for everyone isn’t it? I adored my labour and birth, I want to do it again!xx #TheList

    • / 7:04 pm

      Aww that’s so lovely! I loved mine too – although definitely not having any more ha ha! x

  25. Katie LifeonVistaStreet Haydock
    / 7:57 am

    Oh I love this. Wish I would have found it before I’d had little miss vista. It’s so useful.
    And well proven that no two labours are the same. Great post :-) #TwinklyTuesdays

    • / 5:40 pm

      Thanks so much and you’re so right – it’s really different for everyone! :)

  26. LittleOandme
    / 11:25 am

    Great post. I was a little nervous of reading this, as I still have some flashbacks from labour. It’s so interesting how labour is so different for everyone. I would love to look into hypnobirthing for baby number 2. My son was 6 weeks early and I just wasn’t prepared, I would like to make sure I’m physically and mentally ready!
    Becky xx

    • / 11:36 am

      Thanks Becky! I can’t recommend hypnobirthing highly enough – I felt so prepared and excited for the birth after just the first class :) x

  27. Helen
    / 7:16 am

    Such a great post – and it shows how individual labour is! I had THE worst back pain, I seriously thought my daughter was going to come out of my back. My labour was also longgggg – waters broke on Tuesday and didn’t give birth until friday afternoon! All worth it in the end though :)

    Helen x

    • / 7:18 am

      You’re so right – whatever we’ve gone through to get the baby here, it’s instantly worth it as soon as they make their appearance! :)

  28. Madeline @ This Glorious Life
    / 1:27 pm

    This was fascinating to read, all the experiences were so different! I think that sort of proves the point that you can’t really prepare yourself for labour, even if you’ve been through it before you still don’t know what it’ll be like this time. I think all you can do is relax into it, and trust your body and those taking care of you. x #TheList

    • / 1:59 pm

      That’s such a good point – especially about relaxing and letting your body do what it’s supposed to do :)

  29. Katie Heels and Hooves
    / 11:42 am

    Oh my goodness, I can’t believe how different everyone’s experience was! Hoping I’m one of the ones who doesn’t really know it’s happening! ;-) xx

    • / 11:54 am

      Have you heard of hypnobirthing? I really really recommend it for that :) :)

  30. Vickie
    / 11:27 am

    Great post! It really brings it home how very different labour is from one woman to the next.

    I gave birth 8 weeks early so I hadn’t really got round to asking friends and family what it was like. For me the pain was unlike anything I’d ever experienced but in a strange way it was a positive type of pain. Pain with purpose. :-) Each contraction just completely took me over and all I could think of was getting to the next one and the next and then meeting my baby.

    • / 11:46 am

      Thank you! I felt the same – each contraction was me getting closer to meeting my baby :)

  31. Haidee@Maybe Baby Brothers
    / 9:13 am

    Oh, and visiting from #TheList :)

  32. Haidee@Maybe Baby Brothers
    / 9:12 am

    I managed to have two babies without ever experiencing what a contraction felt like so labour is still so foreign to me! Very helpful list for first time mama’s though!

  33. Louise Rodgers
    / 7:13 am

    What a great post! It really does highlight how every experience is different and you can’t predict how your own labour will be based on the experiences of others. I remember having dull back pains and cramps, but up until the last moments when I was about to push, these pains weren’t really that bad, and I had quite a lot of fun in labour! Although that could be the gas and air talking!

    • / 7:16 am

      I love that you had a fun labour! It doesn’t have to be screaming in agony like the films try and have us believe :) x

  34. Zara - Mojo Blogs
    / 8:24 pm

    It is amazing how different everyones experience is! I love it. I’ve had three wonderful birthing experiences. One of this was back labour, but all of mine started with a heat radiating through my spine at the very bottom. The back labour was the most unpleasant and took a while but all very good! The most intense, final three contractions were the only ones that really felt serious to me!
    This is a great post and I hope will give a mum to be an idea of what to expect! xx

    • / 8:36 pm

      Thanks Zara! I find it so fascinating too how everyone’s experience is so different :) I also had the dreaded back labour twice – naughty babies :)

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I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land I work and live on, the Awabakal peoples, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.
I thank them wholeheartedly and express my love and gratitude for the privilege to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world and for the opportunity for my family to be part of this vibrant and supportive community.