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Real mums share: What labour is like

Childbirth is different for every woman. Although some describe labour as being painful to the point of being a one-time only affair, others claim that giving birth was unexpectedly calm and — for some — even pain-free.

Painful or pain-free?
Woman in labour

No matter which prenatal classes you attend or which books you read, nothing can fully prepare you for the experience of giving birth.

“Pain-free?!” I hear you exclaim. “How is that even possible?! Tell me more!”

To begin with, it’s important to appreciate that giving birth is an intensely personal experience. Every mum has a different pain threshold and we each have our own beliefs and ideas of how we expect the delivery will go.

But if you’re wondering what labour is really like, you might be comforted by the fact that some mums claim to have had a labour that is calm, stress-free and virtually painless, without the intervention of drugs. Hypnobirthing advocates, for instance, strive for a pain-free birth as they believe that it’s your attitude and mindset going into labour that will dictate the type of birth experience you will have.


“Hypnobirthing had given me all I needed to remain cool, calm and collected as my labour began,” explains mother-of-one Meagan, who welcomed baby Ellie into the world in 2011 after a seven-hour labour.

“I even headed out to afternoon tea with my mum after my waters had broken. I knew that the labour was going to go smoothly as I had prepared so much in getting my body to relax.”

For other new parents, the miracle of childbirth wasn’t quite as pain-free.

Internal twisting

In a survey of almost 500 mums via, some common phrasing cropped up when mums were describing exactly how labour felt, and it went along the lines of: “Intense menstrual cramps, combined with internal twisting.”

It’s a sentiment that new parent Tommasina agrees with. “The pain is like having your insides twisted, pulled, and squeezed,” she says. “If I fought it, the pain became worse. But once I surrendered to and accepted the pain, it was more bearable.”

Not that bad

Meanwhile, mum Shannon reports that her labour pain was not that bad. “It feels like cramping when you get your period, just a little more intense. And the pushing is a relief,” she explains. But, she adds, “Once you hold the baby you forget all about the pain you were in.”

Interestingly, it seems that those who believe in hypnobirthing may be on to something. According to the results of a 2005 U.K. study, Women’s expectations and experience of birth, “Anxiety in pregnancy was associated with expecting less positive emotion during birth, more negative emotion during birth, less control and less support during birth. Expectations were positively related to the birth experience. For example, women who expected high levels of control also experienced high levels of control during birth.”

In other words, adopting a positive attitude and working your way through your fear of the pain of childbirth could be a pregnant mother’s best strategy for the big day.

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