Guest contributor: Jenny Badu
You have your hospital delivery bag packed and added all of the items that you need so you are prepared for the big day. You know you need extra clothes for yourself, blankets and sleepers for the baby, and you even threw in a nerdy onesie for your little one to make them look even more adorable.
You know the hospital is prepared with diapers and wipes and you’ve got your birth plan written out with the epidural consent because labor and childbirth pain seems unthinkable. All the things that you can be ready for, you have covered. However, the one thing we can’t fully prepare for is the pain and feeling of childbirth.
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So what does childbirth really feel like and how painful is it?
Labor pains are caused by the uterus contracting in order to push the baby out. The experiences and pain level will be somewhat different for everyone.
Cramps and Contractions
The contractions and cramping that occurs during labor are said to be comparable to severe menstrual cramps. However, that is a stretch because unless the woman has a condition, such as endometriosis, menstrual cramps are not unmanageable with pain meds. Also, many women don’t experience regular, painful cramps on a monthly basis.
Painful period cramps are intermittent, but often can vary in intensity and do not last very long. During active labor, you have to endure those frequent and painful contractions that occur every 3-5 minutes. That is what makes the big difference.
However, these so-called severe cramps (or contractions) during active labor can be so painful that many women deal with dizziness, faintness, vomiting, and diarrhea just to get relief from the pain.
Contractions are compared to severe muscle spasms (because the uterus has muscle tissue) and they have even been compared to passing a kidney stone or dealing with pain from pancreatitis which can be extremely painful.
As it was already mentioned, these extreme cramps/contractions are intense. When labor is active, they occur very frequently. This means that the worst of it will be experienced every 3-5 minutes and it even intensifies more as the baby becomes closer to being born.
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During labor, your back may also go into severe spasms. That means you will be getting back pain that has not likely been experienced during your regular menstrual cycle. This is typically called “back labor.”
The best way to describe the back pain that is experienced during labor is imagining spraining your foot. It is so painful that you cannot walk on it during the first day of injury.
If you have had this happen to your foot, then imagine how your entire back would feel. The back pain during labor can be comparable to that type of pain, however some women don’t experience back labor at all.
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All women make it through
In other words, labor and childbirth pain sounds like torture. With that said, you really have to wonder how women have done it since ancient times and beyond.
How were they able to handle pain long before pain management interventions were even a thought? Neither of us would exist if women in history were not able to handle the pain without pain medication being in the picture.
Back in medieval times when there was no real medical technology around, the only way that women in labor were able to get through it was being in a private room with a small light and fresh air. The other women around them would pray for them and prayer would help them get through the pain.
They went through this process again and again. However, effective pain meds for labor did not even come into the picture until the 1970s when the epidural was produced.
The epidural was a dream come true for many women. It significantly reduces or diminishes any feeling of pain from labor.
There are still many women that would rather endure the pain than to have an epidural because it is believed that an epidural can slow the labor and birthing process down significantly. However, if you absolutely cannot tolerate pain, then the epidural is the best form of pain relief for labor.
How do some mothers do this again?
Another thing that many people wonder is how mothers who did not get pain relief during labor go on to have more kids.
After the birthing process, the intensity of the pain is partially forgotten and that could be nature’s way of helping us to reproduce more. Many women just block out the feelings that they felt from labor and delivery.
Also, the amount of pure joy that you experience once your new baby is placed in your arms is unimaginable. It’s a feeling like no other to hold the child that you just created and gave life to.
Otherwise, if every aspect of the pain through labor was remembered, then no one would go on to have more kids. The same can go for women who have had very difficult pregnancies.
The joy of childbirth
After the painful labor and delivery, you will see that going through all of that pain was well worth it when you are holding your precious little one in your arms. The cuteness of the baby is in overload when he or she is wearing funny baby clothes.
Don’t worry about the pain that comes with delivery, but be as prepared as possible and focus on the beautiful outcome that you will soon experience. Down the road, you may even realize that childbirth was the easiest part of parenting!
Read more specifics here about What to Expect During Childbirth