Labor contractions are a feeling like no other bodily sensation, so they are difficult to describe accurately. The knowing, "don't worry, you will realize when you are contracting!" is not a satisfying answer to most pregnant first time mothers, but giving a more informative answer is tricky. If you are currently in your second or third trimester of pregnancy, you will know what Braxton Hicks contractions or practice contractions feel like. These are a painless and occasional tightening of the uterus, but a very noticeable one. True labor contractions are similar to Braxton Hicks contractions, but there are two real differences.
The first one is the fact that labor contractions do hurt. That does not mean the pain is unbearable, but you will feel a painful "wave" around your abdominal area. This surge will start up, gradually grow stronger, and then settle down again. The second difference is that labor contractions do not stop when you change positions. And additionally, they will start off being relatively mild and short, and then move onto stronger and longer contractions. Our advice is to head to the hospital or birth center, or call your midwife, once your contractions are four minutes apart and last for more than a minute each. Don't forget your hospital bag for labor and birth!