Actually yes, they are just like menstrual cramps! A lot of it does have to do with preparedness though... I did nothing to prepare for my first and was caught totally off guard by the pain and immediately opted for an epi when the pain got intense. They start out as menstrual cramping, but they progress to something else!! LOL With my 2nd I had pitocin, and that stuff is TERRIBLE... avoid it at all cost is you can! I had an epi that time too. I actually prepared myself before my 3rd, and manged to have a natural birth. It makes a world of difference if you actually have some ideas (more than a hospital birth class) from women who have had natural births before on how to cope! My 4th labor was actually VERY comfortable right up until the very end. Even at the end the pain was not as intense as my 3rd and 5th labors were. So it's true that some labors are more or less intense than others.
I definitely won't be having pitocin as they won't induce VBACs...so that's something! LOL.
I did take a child birth class with DD but I'm sure I've forgotten everything. I'll have to learn more if/when we decided all systems are go for a VBAC. I think having a midwife will help too as they are there with you for much of the labour and coach you a bit I think. My midwife did say an OB will have to watch over the actual birth but that she will be there too. Depending on the OB they sometimes let the midwife catch the VBAC babies...but some of them want to do it. I guess everything is different with a VBAC.
I agree with all the comments about pitocin. I have a very high pain tolerance naturally and that stuff made my head spin and there was no break for me between contractions. I truly didn't have much of a choice a that point for the epidural.
I had originally wanted to have a natural birth. I don't know what I will do this time around.
I am hoping to avoid the epi this time, the pitocin contractions kicked my a**. I am going to try and avoid both of those this time.
I could have written Lynne's post. Only back labour, so no experience with front contractions, however back labour is supposedly more painful. Stay away from pitocin and the epi. Not worth it, and they make the chance of a repeat c/s much more likely. My mom actually recently asked me about how I was feeling about the delivery this time around, and I said I'm not at all worried about labour/delivery, the peeing after birth was 1000x worse!
I did some meditations and hypnosis before hand to prepare myself. And I had my mom them helping me focus (on my pinkie through transition) and stay relaxed. And my DH/mom would massage/jam their feet/fists into my back during the contractions to ease the tension.
I had a beautiful birth with DD. I was sitting around in the chair all day before she came because that was the only way I could continue to feel the pre-labour contractions, and I would get so excited about each one. Then when I went into active labour, I started doing my hair and watching tv. Then would just pause to get comfortable for contrax. I tried a bath too, but it was too cramped of a bath, so it really didn't work for me.
Anyway - if you go in with a positive mindset knowing that it's natural and you're not scared - it will hurt way less. If you are stressed and scared, that's when the birth is more painful and slower. So I've heard.
I've never felt one either. With my first, I was really sick and they had me all numbed up with all kinds of stuff for several days before I was induced. Never felt a thing. Of course, I don't really remember anything, either.
The second time, my water broke on its own but I never started contracting. Eventually I decided on pitocin to get things moving and chose to get an epidural first, so I never felt a contraction that time either. At least I remember that birth. The epi was a lot less horrible than all the IV drugs I had the first time.
I've had two labours where I experienced natural contractions, and one labour with pitocin. But I had an epi all 3 times, and am absolutely happy with that decision
I laboured for 5 hours on pitocin before I got the epi. They were pretty bad, but honestly, you always forget the pain afterwards, otherwise why would we have more kids? LOL. And besides, I found my non-drug-induced contractions pretty brutal too! I have a low pain tolerance. SUPER low. Big wimp.
I'm hoping to avoid an induction this time, but we'll see. With baby #2 my induction was scheduled for 10 days overdue, but I went in to labour on my own 8 hours before. With baby #3, I was on the induction list for 10 days overdue, but there were 16 LADIES IN FRONT OF ME. Needless to say I didn't get to go in until the next day. 11 days overdue was enough for me. I had a fear of being induced, but it really was fine. DH actually preferred it the most because it was quite calm and "scheduled" so he didn't have to stress out