17 Women Describe What A Vaginal Birth Actually Feels Like

Ad failed to load

Humans (well, some) have been experiencing vaginal birth for literally forever and it's always been an event that strikes equal parts awe and dread. Speaking as a woman who has given birth vaginally, I can tell you: there's a good reason for that. Birth is simultaneously awe-inspiring and dreadful, or at least it can be. Which is why, any time you have heard women describe what a vaginal birth feels like, regardless of what they're saying or how juxtaposed their feelings may be, you're hearing the truth. (Yes, even the women who tell you they had an orgasm while pushing out a child.) There are generalities, sure, but no real universals; especially when it comes to perception and personal experience. I assure you: there is no experience more personal than urging an infant out of your hoo-ha, and that's just looking at it from a physical point of view.

Emotionally, vaginal delivery is a whole different ball game. You've got excitement, fear, worry, anger, frustration, pride, irritation, love, and a million other emotions onstage and in the wings. Sometimes these emotions are competing with one another for brain power, sometimes they're working in concert as they never have before, and sometimes they're simply leaving you extremely confused or exhausted or overwhelmed or all of the above. That state can be emboldening, encouraging, or paralyzing. On every level, vaginal birth is astounding. I mean, really, if you read about this in a sci-fi novel you wouldn't believe it, right? It's too absurd and astonishing to believe that humans can routinely go through the act of giving birth in order to procreate. Yet we do, sometimes more than once!

So, I talked to other moms about what vaginal birth felt like for them. This is how they responded:

Ad failed to load



"Lots and lots of pressure, very different from the pain of contractions. And somehow, even though I had never done it before, I knew pushing would relieve it!"


"I didn't feel a thing since I had an epidural."

[Writer's note: I had an epidural and felt effing everything. I'm jealous, Stacy. Tell me the name of your anesthesiologist, for, surely, they are a powerful sorcerer.]


Its like taking the biggest sh*t of your life out of your vagina. If sh*t was made of broken glass, that is.
Ad failed to load



"Johnny Cash said it best: 'I fell into a burning ring of fire, I went down, down, down, and the flames went higher. And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire, the ring of fire.'"


"Poop! I think I even said 'I'm about to poop on the table or here she comes!' She was born 10 minutes later!"


Even with the epidural there is immense pressure and then an immediate feeling of relief once they're out. Pushing really does come naturally, that really surprised me.
Ad failed to load



"Like pooping. I had a fun doctor for my first delivery (he was on call for the group and I'd not met him before). 90 minutes into 2 hours of pushing I said, 'I feel like I'm shitting a watermelon!' He replied (totally deadpan) from his perch between my knees, 'You have not yet shat the watermelon.'"


"Lots of pressure, not really pain until the baby was crowning. Just lots of pressure."

Ann Marcy

Lots and lots of pressure in my lady-bits, extreme stretching as baby crowned, and then it just felt kind of like my body took over and helped push the rest of her out. I still remember 2 years later exactly how her feet felt coming out of my super stretched mom-vag!
Ad failed to load



"I didn't want an epidural, but decided to go for it at the last minute with my first. Thank god because it was glorious, but I could still feel a bit of pressure. I felt like I was taking the longest poop ever. When the baby came out, I remember holding her and do not remember anything else after that. With my second, I had a water birth without epidural and the pain was intense, a combination of sharp and burning pain with increasing intensity. Only pushing would help dull the pain a bit, so I kept on pushing, even in between contractions. This time, I felt everything and the craziest feeling was when the baby finally came out. I felt her slithering out of me (and yes, slithering is the correct word to use in this instance). Once the baby was born, the pain subsided immediately. I remember thinking how strange it was that just a moment ago, I was in the worst pain of my life, asking myself why I didn't make it to the hospital in time to get the epidural and then the next, I was fine."


"For some reason the pain in my vag I could deal with. I even had second degree tearing in 'a very sensitive area' as my doctor put it. It's a lot, but I guess I had mentally prepared myself for all the stretching and what-not. What I couldn't deal with was the fact that it felt like my anus was going to explode. It was absolutely awful."


Ridiculous. IMPOSSIBLE. Overwhelming. Amazing. And empowering.

"My first birth was an induction turned emergency c-section. So I had no idea what to expect with my second. My mom was my main coach, and when my body started involuntarily pushing on its own, it was awesome. And although much is a blur, I do remember that she always told me pushing was a relief and 'felt good,' and I distinctly remember — angrily — yelling at her, 'This doesn't feel better!' But then he was out. And on my chest. And I remember just saying over and over, in disbelief, 'I had a baby.... I HAD A BABY.' I felt so present and so involved. I DID THAT. MY BODY DID THAT. It was amazing. (But hey. When they say stop pushing for a sec? Stop. Cuz youch.)"

Ad failed to load



"Have you ever seen Alien...?"

[Writer's note: to be fair, this is what Ramandeep says about everything pregnancy and birth related. Also to be fair, in my experience, she's on the money.]


"My first I pushed for 5 hours (yes that is abnormally long) due to malpositioning. It was scary, exhausting, and painful. My second pushed herself out, thank you fetal ejection reflex. I felt like a hostage in a body on auto-pilot. Words can't describe the relief of the shoulders passing and that slippery baby finally sliding out. Side note: why do they always act like the head is the hardest part? Why did we never think to say, 'Aren't the shoulders wider than the head?'"



"I'm one of those crazy women who thought it felt amazing. It hurt, but it was so incredible I almost didn't even register it. It was otherworldly."

Ad failed to load


"What struck me was how acutely physical it was. I had a VBAC, and I'd sort of mentally built up what kind of emotional experience it was going to be. It was wonderful, but, being honest, in the moment it wasn't. I was sort of overwhelmed by how 'in my own body' I felt and how unsettling that is when your body is in pain and doing a lot of work."



"The epidural did not take the pain away completely, but it took the edge off enough for me to focus on the contractions instead of trying to escape them. My doctor raised my bed and instructed me to push as I felt the contractions, but per my request gave me no other 'coaching' — I wanted to feel somewhat in control of my labor, pain, contractions and pushing and he explained how the baby's head in my pelvis was like a car tire stuck in a trench — every contraction and push was like revving the engine in an attempt to rock the car out. Fantastic analogy, and good motivation to keep pushing even when I felt I was at the end of a breath. Within about 20 pushes [Twin A] was out. I had a small tear but other than the 'ring of fire,' the pain wasn't too bad. I wanted so badly to have her placed on my chest, but as my doctor had suspected might happen, my contractions slowed [and Twin B's] heart rate began to drop. She was in distress, traumatized by [her sister's] birth. I was completely exhausted; I've since said 'the last thing you want to do after pushing out a baby, is push out another baby!' I asked the doctor if he could perform a vacuum assist — I wanted to avoid that c-section if I possibly could. The doctor said he would try, and produced what looked like a suction cup and small pump. He reached inside me, affixed the cup to [Twin B's] head, and on the next push used the pressure of the pump to help pull her out. [When she cried] I was so relieved."

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

13 Unique (& Totally Not Mainstream) Mother's Day Gifts For The Hipster Mom

Hipsters thrive on being outside the norm and not really digging anything considered "mainstream." Whether it's in their fashion, what music they listen to, the books they read, or how they enjoy beverages, there's just something that makes them dist…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's How To Introduce Your Pet To Your Baby & Make Everything As Calm As Possible

Our home, which we lovingly refer to as “the funny farm,” is filled with four-legged family members. We have two crazy beagles and two cat jerks, and boy are they loved and spoiled. (As they should be.) But we are now finally having a baby of our own…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills