For the blissfully unaware and uninitiated, there's more than one way to contract during labor. And apparently the number of blissfully unaware and uninitiated moms is vast, because when I first asked a group of moms to describe butt contractions, most of them didn't know what I was talking about. Some asked if I meant back labor, or fourth degree tearing. Some asked me to be more specific about what I meant. But for the women who had experienced butt contractions, clarification was unnecessary. Most of them knew what I was talking about immediately. As a baby descends during labor and delivery, and the combination of their head putting pressure on your rectum and the ever-strengthening contractions create a feeling unlike any other. That, dear reader, is a butt contraction.
My friend Rachel was confused. "Is this a thing? Three kids and I have never heard of it." In a word: yes. This is a thing. In fact, I would say that it was one of the most intense physical sensations I experienced in both of my labors and deliveries, and I pushed out a massive nine-pound baby.
Certainly the fact that a lot of women who have given birth don't know what I'm talking about proves that it's hardly a universal thing. But after I published my first article on the topic, "11 Things Butt Contractions *Actually* Feel Like," the comments section on Facebook vindicated me completely. "I don't feel so stupid anymore!" said one person. "It hurts like hell ... I just kept screaming there's contractions in my butt!" another said. There was lots of tagging friends saying, "See! I told you!" or, "This sounds like what you were talking about."
On the one hand, it was funny and a little heartwarming to see so many people join together in this bizarre common experience. On the other hand, it was a little disheartening to see so many people had endured this experience, but no one had prepared them for it beforehand, or even talked about it in any meaningful way afterward. Then again, ignoring women's experiences and pain is pretty par for the course, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
So yes, my fellow birth-givers! Butt contractions are real! Maybe not for everyone, but some of us know your pain... or pressure... or pressure so bad it's painful. However you describe it, our bottoms are connected on a deeper level.
"I warned [my husband] that I was about to crap all over the table and he needed to get the nurse. [Our daughter] was born 15 minutes later. I had a stomach virus a few days before and it was not going to be pretty! It was more like very strong pressure instead of pain, but I had epidural and couldn’t really feel pain."
Writer's note: There's going to be a lot of talk about poop in this article. You can't talk about butt contractions without talking about pooping sensations. That's just how it is.
"Ugh, the worst. They felt like I had to poop while simultaneously being ripped in half at the anus."
"Like the fiery gates of Hell slowly expanding and opening in your butt."
"In my delirium, I asked the nurse if there was any chance the baby was going to come out of my ass. It was almost as though the epidural had been used to shift labor from my uterus to my butt. So I guess it feels like regular, awful contractions but in the wrong place."
Writer's note: I asked Nikki how the nurse responded. She said she was confused, then laughed and reassured her that babies cannot physically come out of your ass. "After delivery she laughed about it again and then told the other nurses, who also laughed. They were nice about it, though."
"It's like when you drink coffee in the morning and all of a sudden you urgently need to take a massive dump. It's that feeling coming at regular intervals, but while you're having terrible period cramps at the same time."
Writer's note: OMG, so damn accurate.
"This is sort of embarrassing, but I've been hospitalized for constipation. I didn't know it was constipation when I went to the ER, but I was experiencing a sharp, stabbing feeling in my lower intestine that had me in tears. Butt contractions were just like that."
Writer's note: Also extremely accurate.
"It feels like you're about to poop a baby and it's stuck so your body is trying to squeeze it out."
"I didn't feel them until late labor — I guess that's when the baby's head had descended and was pressing up against my bowels — and let's put it this way: the regular contractions I could handle, but the butt contractions were so bad I was begging for a C-section. [I'm pregnant now and] I'm kind of hoping this baby is breech so I have to have a C-section and I won't have to feel the butt contractions again."
Writer's note: Speaking from experience, I can assure you that C-sections come with their own set of issues!
"They were manageable with the epidural. They were like the regular contractions after the epidural. I could feel pressure but not pain, though after a while the pressure got intense."
"It was almost like a super-bloated feeling that stays inside."
"It was so bad! I finally felt like I'd found a coping mechanism for my ordinary contractions and then I had to change up my whole breathing technique to deal with butt contractions! Also the feeling that you really have to poop."
Writer's note: Again, so much like a nightmare poop, you guys...
"Like all of your organs 'down there' just became one big organ and so what's happening in one you feel everywhere. So a contraction now just extends to your butt, your vagina extends to your anus, and everything hurts."
"Same as a uterine contraction, but in your intestines. I'd also say there's sort of a gnawing feeling that goes along with it. It's difficult to explain."
Writer's note: Gnawing? Did you birth a gremlin?
"I can't describe it and I had no idea what was going on at the time. I thought something was wrong. No one warns you about them!"
Writer's note: They don't! This is what I'm saying! Clearly not everyone is experiencing this sensation, but enough of us are that it should probably be addressed, no?
"Oh my God! I tell people about this all the time and most people don't know what I'm talking about! It's so nice to know I'm not going crazy! Thank you!"
Writer's note: That's why I'm here, Penny. You're welcome.
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