What Does Early Contractions Feel Like?

For you, early contractions may feel quite painless or mild, or they may feel very strong and intense.

During true labor contractions your belly will tighten and feel very hard.

Some moms-to-be liken these contractions to menstrual cramps.

How do contractions feel when they first start?

Labor contractions are the real deal. Some say labor contractions feel a bit like menstrual cramps at first, but then they intensify. Then, contractions feel like a dull ache paired with pelvic pressure. The discomfort moves from the top of the belly to the bottom—think of it as pushing your baby down and out.

How do you know when contractions are real?

If you touch your abdomen, it feels hard during a contraction. You can tell that you’re in true labor when the contractions are evenly spaced (for example, five minutes apart), and the time between them gets shorter and shorter (three minutes apart, then two minutes, then one).

Does baby move during contractions?

You usually can’t feel your baby move during the cramp or contraction. The contractions push the baby’s head down, slowly thinning and opening the cervix; this is called effacement and dilation.

How far apart are early contractions?

When the cervix dilates from 0 to 3 or 4 centimeters, contractions get stronger as time progresses. Mild contractions begin at 15 to 20 minutes apart and last 60 to 90 seconds. The contractions become more regular until they are less than 5 minutes apart.