How Labor Pain Starts: Stages and Hormonal Shifts

Labor pain is a natural and essential part of childbirth, signaling the beginning of the incredible journey of bringing a baby into the world.

Embracing how labor pain starts with knowledge and support empowers women to welcome their little ones with strength, courage, and a deep connection to the miracle of life.

How Labor Pain Starts

how labor pain starts

Labor pain, a natural and essential part of childbirth, typically begins with the onset of contractions.

Following are the hormonal changes, early labor, active labor, and finally, the transition phase.

Onset Of Contractions

Where do labor pains start? The onset of contractions marks the beginning of delivery and is one of the first signs that childbirth is approaching.

Contractions are the rhythmic tightening and relaxing of the uterine muscles, and they play a crucial role in facilitating the opening of the cervix to allow your baby to go through the birth canal.

During painful contractions, expectant mothers may experience sensations similar to mild menstrual cramps.

These common signs are often irregular and may occur infrequently at first.

The labor contractions become more frequent, regular, and intense. That’s how labor starts.

Hormonal Changes

As a woman’s body prepares for childbirth, a complex interplay of hormones orchestrates the process.

These hormonal shifts are essential in softening the cervix, stimulating uterine contractions, and facilitating the baby’s delivery.

One of the key hormones involved in labor is oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone.”

Oxytocin is responsible for stimulating uterine contractions and promoting the progress of labor.

Another important hormone is prostaglandin, which softens and thins the cervix.

As labor pain starts, the release of prostaglandins helps to prepare the birth canal for the baby’s passage.

Furthermore, the hormone relaxin contributes to the relaxation and flexibility of the pelvic ligaments, allowing the baby to navigate through the birth canal more easily.

Additionally, endorphins, the body’s natural pain relief hormones, increase during signs of labor.

These endorphins help healthy women cope with intense labor pain and promote a sense of calm during the birthing process.

Early Labor

A woman may experience mild contractions that gradually become more regular and intense during early labor.

These frequent contractions may feel like strong menstrual cramps and typically last 30 to 60 seconds.

Early labor is a crucial phase as it helps in the effacement (thinning) and dilation of the cervix to prepare for the baby’s descent through the birth canal.

Early labor can vary from person to person, lasting anywhere from a few hours to weeks of pregnancy.

Expectant mothers need to rest, stay hydrated, and conserve energy during this stage, as active labor lies ahead.

Active Labor

How to know if you’re in active labor? Active labor is a significant process of childbirth characterized by strong and regular contractions that become more intense.

During this stage, the cervix dilates, reaching around 6 to 7 centimeters. The contractions typically last longer, occurring every 3 to 5 minutes and lasting 45 to 60 seconds.

As the contractions intensify, they are crucial in pushing the baby downward and further opening the cervix.

This phase requires the woman’s full attention and focus as the pain and pressure increase significantly.

First-time moms need to stay hydrated, change positions regularly, and practice breathing techniques to cope with the intensity of the contractions.

Transition Phase

The final and most difficult stage of labor, known as the transition phase, marks the change from active labor to the pushing delivery stage.

The cervix fully expands to 10 centimeters during this stage, allowing the baby to enter the birth canal.

During the transition phase, contractions are strong and regular and may overlap, resulting in increased pressure and severe labor pain. It is even more painful with labor induction.

Many women experience physical and emotional sensations during this phase, including exhaustion, trembling, and a strong urge to push.

The transition phase can also be emotionally intense, with feelings of doubt, fear, and excitement all intertwined.

Some mothers may feel overwhelmed or doubt their ability to continue, but it’s important to remember that this phase is a natural part of the approach to birth.

How To Cope When Labour Pain Starts?

who does labor start

Every woman’s experience with labor pain is unique, so finding what works best for you is essential.

Here are some effective coping methods to consider:

Breathing and Relaxation Techniques

Some women find it helpful to visualize the breath flowing to the tension area and then releasing it as they exhale.

Deep breathing exercises can help women stay calm and focused during contractions—practice slow, deep breaths through the nose and out through the mouth.

Additionally, relaxation methods like gradually loosening muscles can assist in lowering bodily tension and ease discomfort.

Movement and Positioning

Changing positions and moving during labor can help alleviate pain and pressure.

Walking, rocking on a birthing ball, or changing from standing to kneeling will promote optimal fetal positioning and encourage the baby’s descent through the birth canal.

Gravity can play a role in speeding up labor and reducing pain, so being upright and mobile can be beneficial.

Massage and Counterpressure

Comfort and relaxation can be attained by receiving a little massage on the back, shoulders, or legs.

Furthermore, back discomfort can also be lessened by exerting counterpressure on the lower back while you are contracting.

Partners or support persons can be trained to provide these techniques or use tools like tennis balls or a TENS machine to apply counterpressure.

Water Therapy

Water therapy, such as a warm bath or birthing pool, is a popular and effective method for soothing relief during labor, making it even less painful than toothache.

One of the primary advantages of water therapy is its ability to reduce the intensity of contractions.

Being in water can alleviate pressure on the body, providing a sense of weightlessness and comfort.

The buoyancy of the water allows the body to feel lighter, making it easier for the mother to move and change positions, which can facilitate the progress of labor.

Medication and Medical Interventions

Medication or medical interventions may be necessary for some women to manage labor pain effectively.

This can include epidural anesthesia, which relieves pain by numbing the body’s lower half.

Other options include nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for short-term pain relief or intravenous pain medications.

However, discussing the available options with healthcare providers and making informed decisions based on individual preferences and medical conditions is essential.


where do labor pains start

The onset of labor pain begins an extraordinary and transformative experience.

From the early contractions to the active phase of labor, the body undergoes incredible changes to bring new life into the world.

Understanding how labor pain starts and progresses can help expectant mothers prepare mentally and emotionally for the beautiful journey of childbirth.

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