30 women told us what birth is really like

It’s a question every pregnant woman asks herself in the lead up to her due date. As the prospect of pushing a human being out of her body looms – what does that actually feel like? 

We asked 30 women what birth was really like, and they didn’t sugarcoat it… because well, let’s be real, as incredible and beautiful as giving birth is, it’s a lot. Both mentally and physically. 

Here’s what they had to say about what birth was like for them:

Very calm. I had an epidural so no pain really. And my midwife was amazing! – Paula

Slow, my body didn’t progress until I had an epidural then it went super fast. It was amazing after my waters were broken, I leaked like a tap with every move which was hysterical, the meds made me vomit violently and shiver uncontrollably but I wouldn’t change a moment of it. – Nicole

I was really silent throughout the entire labour. The labour went on for 13 hours after I arrived at the hospital. I went with my natural body reactions. – Tammy

Scary. Lots of things went wrong, definitely an emotional rollercoaster. – Jackie

It was amazing, I had a c section and no complications. – Melissa

My labour went off track as we were experiencing issues with my placenta and ended in a very urgent c-section… it was long and hard and scary but still strangely beautiful – Anna

Of my 4 kids, I’ve had 4 natural deliveries, 2 with no pain relief, 1 natural breech and 1 with morphine. I honestly enjoy labour. It hurts but it’s so powerful – Jennifer

Cramping like your period at first. Waves of pain that get worse and for longer until they run together and you don’t feel you can cope anymore. I know it was painful but I don’t remember much about pushing, except there was poo and it was difficult to get out because of pregnancy constipation. A second degree tear meant half an hour of stitches afterwards, which hurt more than the birth surprisingly. – Kelly

Labour was ok, I managed well but delivery was horrific. Two hours and forty five minutes of pushing was hell – Kelsey

Amazing! Your body knows what to do. I didn’t have any drugs, just stayed active for the 12 hours and pushed really really hard at the end. – Maya

It was like nothing I could have imagined, the aftermath of recovery from a c section isn’t talked about enough! The shakes, the pain from trapped gas in my shoulders, the first shower & poo even with a c section was next level scary!! – Chelsea

It was painful but the epidural was a life saver and the birth of my daughter went so quick – Alyce

Emergency Caesarian. Actually a really pleasant experience. Fantastic hospital staff that walked me through every step and told me what I would feel and what was happening. I felt extremely supported. – Melanie

I didn’t have any pain relief and at one point it was so painful I vomited up everything in my body. And pushing for an hour and 10 minutes there were terrifying moments where I could not imagine her fitting out! But at some point you push pass the terror because you know you need to. Some women love the pushing stage but I found it just as challenging mentally and physically. – Caitlin

It wasn’t too terrible. It was just painful. Like seriously trying to poo out a watermelon – Tameesha

It went quicker than I expected – about 10.5 hours from my waters breaking to delivery. Contractions are no joke…thank god for epidurals. The recovery was longer and harder in many ways from the delivery – Sherry

I had all the drugs and it still hurt like hell. Also, I couldn’t push. I didn’t know how. – Cassandra

The most powerful period cramps that take over your whole body. I had two short labours without complications, but being sutured afterwards was the most intense part. – Liv

Magical. Hurt like hell but knew it would be over eventually. Felt our way through rather than planned, had open options and ended up with water birth. – Kayla

I was surprised. Very painful but I coped better than I thought – but I had gas and morphine which helped with that, and lived in the shower. – Rachael

Really hard. I went from being less than 1cm dilated to having my baby in an hour and 45 minutes. No rest in between contractions. I felt a ring of fire as her head crowned, and after that, my body did the pushing. The pushing stage is much better than the contractions. – Charlotte

Intense but doable. Deep breathing and visualising baby moving into the world helped me through the strongest sensations. Having a positive birth affirmation on repeat in my head also helped! – Amanda

Harder than I thought it would be, but also incredible. – Alison

Quick, and didn’t feel real was very surreal! Also even though it was only 40 minutes I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep – Alex

My first c-section was scary, the needle and then to feel all the pulling and tugging and not being able to move your legs was just plain weird. My second was much different, maybe because I knew what to expect. – Liz

I found it to be an amazing experience. The contractions were intense but I had an epidural at 1cm after 2.5 hours of contractions at 3 mins apart and was able to be in the moment when my precious bubba was born. – Elise

Raw, violent, animalistic, loud, messy, smelly, painful…, bloody, incredible, emotional, exhausting. – Katie

Well, it was painful, but over quite fast for me. I remember thinking I would be in labour for days, as so many had told me. I did need stitches with my first child and that hurt more than giving birth! But overall, it wasn’t as bad as what I had heard. – Noelle

Everyone’s experience is different. Yes, it is painful and hard, but also beautiful – you get to meet the little person you’ve been growing. I found reading about it and different pain management techniques helpful, and finding a technique that feels ‘right’. I found labour easier once I found the best position after trying a few, and trying a few different coping techniques. – Rebecca

It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. When I was in it, I had moments where I really thought I couldn’t do it, the pain was too much, but somehow you just get through it. Because you have to, your baby is depending on you. The pushing stage was better because I felt productive, and had a goal. You’re so much stronger than you know; your body was designed for this. – Jade

If you’re a mama-to-be counting down the days until you bring your little one earthside, your biggest takeaway from this article should be that birth is different for everyone. The one thing all these women have in common is that no matter what their birth experience was like, it was absolutely worth it to bring their babies into the world.

If you’re more confused than ever about how to prepare for the unknown and unknowable of birth – read midwife Beth Ryan’s article on what you need to know about creating a birth plan.

What was birth like for you? Let us know in the comments.

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