Why is it that when a women is expecting she suddenly becomes the target for labor horror stories? We all know it's true. Some women reading this may have been the victim of this unfair phenomenon or possibly even the perpetrator. Perhaps both roles have fallen upon one of us at one point or another.
Regardless, who reeeeeally needs to hear these types of stories? Well, definitely not expectant women about to give birth. So let's pass by the crazy, off the wall, my-doctor-ate-a-cheeseburger-during-delivery episode. By sticking to some good ole fashion labor of love tales, we think will give moms-to-be less nightmares.
In this post we're going to explore the wonderful event that is labor. Forward and backward, backward and forward, we'll pick apart things to know about back labor versus front labor. How does that sound? Awesome...that's what we thought, too.
Before we begin, here's the scoop: Front labor is when a mother mostly feels her contractions where she would normally feel menstrual cramps in her abdomen. Back labor is when much of the discomfort of labor is felt in the mother's back. Sounds great, right?
Well, when the end result is a precious little baby, it IS great! Like Ina Mae Gaskins (2003) says, no one's body is a lemon. A mother's body knows exactly what it's doing even when her mind doesn't quite follow. Although, no one can never predict exactly how their body will react to labor, it's good to know the variations.
So, let's dive right into this labor stuff. Labor isn't for the faint of heart, so put on a brave face and let nature rock those baby-making hips like a boss.
14 Back Labor Can Just Feel Like Back Pain
One of the first things to know about back labor versus front is that front labor doesn't lie. Back labor doesn't exactly lie, but it can sure pull the wool over your eyes sometimes.
When a woman feels a cramp in her abdomen, she knows it's a cramp. Whether it's gas, menstrual cramps, or contractions (Braxton Hicks included), she knows that she knows it's pelvis pain.
Every women who has carried a child clearly understands that it's normal to feel aches and pains in her back. Actually, this is probably a daily occurrence, especially during the third trimester.
So you can imagine her surprise to find she's truthfully been in labor rather than just having an achey back day. You see what we mean about back labor kind of being a little fibber? Sneaky, sneaky.
13 Back Labor Causes Traveling Contractions
Not that one type of labor is better than the other, but it is the consensus that one type is more consistent. What we mean by consistent is in reference to location. Not front versus back type of location, more like higher, lower, side to side, and deeper.
Front labor tends to focus on one area of the body. With each contraction, a mother knows where the intensity is going to be felt. She can accurately prepare herself for the waves of pelvic pressure. It tends to keep coming back in the same spot, just with more power.
Back labor is known to tease a little more. A consistent ache has been reported as common for back labor. Also common is that contractions tend to be less consistent at targeting one area. This could be a good thing, because not targeting one area means giving the other areas a break. Although, it may be hard for your laboring partner to massage the right spot if it's changing every two minutes.
12 "Back" Doesn't Just Mean Back
Front labor has been described in so many ways. Some ways are even contradicting. From mild menstrual cramps to knives jabbing into the pelvis, women perceive the pain and pressure differently. Some have described the movement of a contraction as starting directing under the breasts and rippling down to the pelvis finally exiting at the hips.
Back labor plays a similar tune, only it has more of an area to roam around. Seemingly, this type of labor likes to bother our bums. Yes, there are so many muscles and nerves right under our bottom area that back labor loves it.
It's not a rare sight to see a labor massage being performed on a mother...on her butt. All in a day's work for doulas and such. The relief from this massage is unmatched, and the outcome is a welcomed reprieve from pain.
11 Front Labor Can Stop And Go
Much like a delivery truck constantly stopping and going, front labor has defined frames of discomfort. It typically starts with mild contractions that are several minutes apart and fairly easy to handle. From there, more intense contractions begin as mom gears up for the hard work.
Even the intense contractions usually have a short time in between them for the mother to catch her breath. This is another significant difference between front labor and back labor.
Back labor has clearly defined frames of discomfort. The only unfortunate thing is that the discomfort doesn't always completely go away after the contraction has ended. Often, a dull pain (or intense) pain remains in the lower back. Usually this is caused by the baby's head putting pressure on that area.
10 Counter-Pressure Can Comfort Mom During Back Labor
Counter pressure is direct pressure applied to a small area about the size of your hand. This technique is mostly used on the boney areas of the backside like the spine and sacrum. It often reliefs the pressure of back pain in addition to aiding in speeding up labor.
This is an excellent relief for back labor. The point in counter-pressure is to provide support to the bones that are shifting due to a baby making his or her way down the birth canal. The shifting of bones is natural, but it can feel like a lot of uncomfortable pressure.
Back labor gives a big green light to counter-pressure, but the same idea cannot be applied to the pelvis during front labor. You can't push on muscles or flesh to ease any pain. It's there to stay for a few minutes, and other relief must be found.
This is one major difference in back labor versus front - the pain MUST be handled in a different way.
9 Back Labor Can Mean Laboring In Different Positions
Because the discomfort is felt differently, moms are forced to handle it differently as well. Front labor often welcomes sitting or squatting to relieve the pressure. It just seems to come naturally to gravitate towards these positions.
Back labor is the same in the sense that moms gravitate towards positions to find relief. It's totally different in terms of what positions moms choose.
For instance, sitting or squatting is usually last on the list of relieving positions. In fact, most moms would go as far as to say that you couldn't have paid them to sit during back labor. If sitting is the last thing you'd want to ease the pain then you may be dealing with some back labor.
8 All Massages Are Welcomed During Any Type Of Labor
One very important thing to remember about labor is that all labor is labor. Back labor, front labor, standing on your head labor - it's all labor. It's all a ton of work and it can be exhausting.
While the front labor may be taking your breath away, the back labor might very well render you immobile. We're talking about tough stuff here. Mothers, no matter the labor, need to be mothered during this entire process.
One strong similarity between back labor versus front is that all massages feel good. They will feel good at different places on the body and at different points during labor. They all feel good, though.
Taking care of the laboring mother via massage is a very good idea. No matter where the pressure or pain is, nothing can substitute a care-filled touch.
7 An Epidural Can Relieve Pain For Front Or Back Labor
Which type of labor is more common for mothers to ask for epidurals? Ah, this is a tricky question, because it really depends on a number of different things. For the most part it's up to the mom to decide what is right for her during the birthing process.
Like mentioned before, front labor often graces a mother with short breaks in between contractions. Back labor doesn't always grant that luxury. It's common for back labor to leave an ache or pain for the mother to endure even after the contraction has subsided.
Many women reported back labor motivating them to ask for an epidural. Epidurals aren't always a cure all, though. More women experiencing back labor protested that the epidural helped, but didn't take away the pain like it did when they experienced front labor.
6 The Baby's Position Can Determine The Type Of Labor
Some of you are probably wondering what in the world causes a woman's body to respond with back or front labor. In short, it's typically the position of the baby that dictates the type of labor a mom will experience. This is not always the case, but generally speaking it's usually that baby is boss.
The preferred position for babies to be delivered is the anterior position. This means that your baby's head is down, facing your back, neatly tucked into the curve of your pelvis. This positioning usually calls for front labor, and it's known to be shorter as well. This isn't always guaranteed, but it is common.
When a women experiences back labor her baby is usually in the posterior position. This is also known as "Sunny Side Up." In this position your baby's head is facing your tummy, skull pressuring your spine, and slightly more awkward than anterior.
5 Which Is More Challenging?
We don't want to boo hoo on any type of labor. Actually we're going to do just that. All labor is a challenge. Whether it's front labor or back labor, it's tough stuff.
With that being said, the consensus is that front labor is easier to handle. There is still discomfort and pain. At least with front labor, you get a break between contractions, though. That helps a lot!
Back labor is notorious for being incredibly difficult because it's constant. Often, not even an epidural can overcome the discomfort. So when the contraction lets up, the pain remains. It's a bummer, we know. Simply dealing with the discomfort nonstop can make a mom tense up. Tensing up can slow the progression of labor, thus delaying the big push. You see the cruel cycle?
4 Staying Relaxed Is Important
During labor it can be difficult to stay relaxed. This seems like a no-brainer, because it IS called labor for a reason. Not that you can sit back and chill out like a rainy Saturday filled with a Netflix marathon. You can, however, stay calm and relaxed to help your body progress with labor. That's what we all want, right? Short labor with a healthy baby in our arms.
By tensing up during labor, you're making your body work twice as hard as it needs to. Easier said than done, you say? Yes indeed.
Whether it's front labor or back labor, most relaxation techniques remain the same. Rhythmic breathing is always #1 on the list. Create a stress-free environment follows closely behind. Get a massage, take a hot shower or bath, change positions, practice visualization, and bring things from home that comfort you (pillows, photos, candles, etc).
3 Which Is Faster?
There is no right answer for this, unfortunately. Seriously, we know that totally stinks! The truth is that each woman is as different as her labor.
Although we can't set in stone which labor is quicker, we can throw you a bone on generalities.
Like we mentioned before, back labor is known for causing a mother to tense up and tire more quickly than front labor. This inevitably slows the progression of labor. Dealing with constant pain that drugs can't always relieve can be excruciating. You can easily see how back labor gets a bad rap for being pokey.
Front labor provides an equally difficult challenge, but in a different way. The difference in pain and consistency will most likely be a welcomed relief, and will speed up the delivery.
Each woman is different, though. What is difficult for one may be easy for another.
2 What Does It Feel Like?
Each mom is going to tell you a different story when it comes to labor pains. We've rounded up a few common descriptions for you, though.
The early stages of front labor have most frequently been labeled the most like a period cramp. As labor progresses, the discomfort turns to the kind of cramp you'd have if you have gas or diarrhea. The contractions get longer and more intense like an involuntary tightening or a pulled muscle. Once you start pushing, you tend to forget all about the contraction pain.
The early stages of back labor tend to feel like simple back pain, which is why it frequently goes unnoticed. As labor continues, the contractions are not often consistent, but the pain is. The pressure is intense. It can be so intense that your partner or doula will need their full strength to put enough pressure on the area to give you any relief.
1 The Best Labor Positions
There are many positions recommended to a mother to help her through the labor experience. Some positions work best for front labor while others work best for back labor. We'll lay them out for you here.
During front labor a woman will feel pressure on her abdomen. Her entire body will have the tendency to tense up. To relieve this discomfort, she can lie on her side, walk, sit on a birthing ball, or stand in a supported squat. These are the favorites according to moms.
For back labor, sitting regularly is usually not a first choice for moms. Sitting on the toilet or a birthing chair may be just the ticket, though. Kneeling or leaning forward is another favorite followed by soaking in a warm bath while leaning forward.