This week on the Pregnancy Exercise Facebook page we had an interesting discussion around contractions vs pushing and which was more challenging.
I’m definitely Team Pushing. Two hours of that and I was exhausted beyond all belief. I found it really physically exhausting and I felt like I was doing something wrong but couldn’t quite work out what. Plus, I never felt the urge to push which I thought was supposed to take over. Then there was that ring of fire when the baby’s head crowned and I was convinced my body was going to split in two (that is my only memory of labor pain and it is seared into my consciousness at a very deep level!).
Whereas I found contractions were manageable with a TENS machine and (lots) of gas, aside from that last burst at the transition stage before moving to pushing – they were pretty bad but just when I thought I couldn’t handle more they were done. But I’m someone who had really hideous period pain when I was younger so the sensation felt similar (sort of!) and I had a pretty short labor so I didn’t have to put up with it for too long. I don’t know how anyone goes through days of contractions.
I found it fascinating reading other mum’s experiences, especially as I’m gearing up to go through the lovely process of labor once more. A lot of mums who had a similar labor to me first time around seem to find the opposite second time around – a faster labor with very intense contractions followed up a short, “easy” push. So, who knows what I’ll face in a few months’ time.
There was a 50 / 50 split between those who found contractions harder and those that found pushing harder. Mums who had longer labors definitely found that contractions were the most challenging aspect.
Those with big babies, long periods of pushing or who had an epidural so couldn’t feel what they needed to do seemed to find pushing harder. Whereas a lot of women who had a tough time with contractions found getting to the pushing stage was a relief.
One woman stated she felt the contractions were happening to her, but when she got to the pushing stage she had control. Which contrasted with another who said “I only pushed for 30 mins but the ring of fire was the bit I really lost control, midwife had to get quite stern to calm me down.”
These two answers, which came up one after the other perfectly illustrate how different labor is for each of us:
Olivia: “Well, obvious answer is pushing. That sting when the head is on its way out! Ooooh! But I was lucky my girls were reasonably easy”.
Ellie: Definitely contractions… back labor! I was hopping around on my tip toes …couldn’t do anything else! Pushing was a breeze in comparison.
Which is a good reminder that this is all relative – let’s face it, both stages are pretty freaking tough! It’s incredible what our bodies are capable of enduring to get those babies out.
Of course, as one mum’s post reminded me, it’s not all over when the baby arrives… then we get to experience the after pains…
Gemma Finlay has spent her working life in journalism, marketing and publicity. Since having her daughter, Nina, in 2014 she’s become obsessed with all things pregnancy and baby related. Dealing with the physical side of pregnancy made her hyper-aware of the importance of getting good advice about looking after yourself both pre and post birth. She’s passionate about sharing quality information with other mums. Follow Gemma on Twitter.