Parents

34 Incredible Photos Of Women In Labor

Birth experiences may differ, but all moms-to-be are so strong.
04/10/2017 01:35pm ET | Updated April 11, 2017

What is it like to be in labor? There is no way to really know until you’re in the middle of it, yet birth photographers are able to pull back the curtain a bit ― capturing an experience that can be surreal in its intensity, but one that happens multiple times every second around the world.

Here are 34 photos that show how wildly birth experiences can differ ― from the woman who works through contractions at home, to the mom who has a scheduled C-section ― and that pay homage to the fact that no matter how women labor, they truly are strong as hell.

"After two difficult labors and births, this mother chose an unmedicated hospital birth with a doula and very supportive OB. After weeks of prodomal labor, she was so strong and persistent. Her third baby girl was born en caul, completing her family."
"I photographed this fellow birth photographer's birth, and it was a unique, family-centered experience. It was in the middle of the day with the sun pouring in through the windows. Her toddler—and other children—were very much a part of the experience."
"This mom knew that due to her baby's position and low fluids, he'd need to enter the world through a cesarean. We waited at the hospital for eight hours as her surgery was pushed back by emergencies. When it was time, her doctor came for her, offered some calm words, and walked with her back to the operating room."
"This mom told me: 'To me this is the pinnacle point of labor. It is something that is so excruciating, yet so powerful, because while only you can push out that new life, you don't do it alone. It's a communal effort.'"
"This mom labored for hours with no pain relief. She was an absolute trooper."
"These women—Ashley and Jenna—pace the halls of the hospital as Jenna nears transition with their first child. Less than an hour later, their son Conor was born."
"Many mothers reach the point in labor when they say they can't do anymore. It's such an awful place to be, because there is no escape. You feel like fleeing your body, because it's all too much to handle, but you're trapped. Then a beautiful thing happens—you do it anyway. This mom, right here, is stronger than she ever thought possible."
"This first time mom had amazing support from her husband during her labor."
"These two moms were an amazing team. They worked together through each contraction to bring their little baby boy into the world. It was one of the most endearing births I've ever attended!"
"These parents had home birth planned, but after days of labor, the mom needed to head to the hospital. As the waves of contractions kept coming, she was silent and focused—but she was also exhausted. Her husband encouraged her, which was exactly she needed. One more concentrated effort pushing, and their baby was out!"
"This mama is a dancer and she danced her way through each contraction, swaying her hips and then moving high on her knees."
"Calm focus and a great partner kept this birthing woman confident and grounded throughout her VBAC."
"This mom was already 12 hours into this labor, and her contractions kept getting faster and stronger. She found a small amount of relief in the hospital shower."
"Movement, fresh air and a connection to nature were all important coping techniques that this mother used to help control her discomfort and her breathing."
"This mama labored with such strength and courage as each surge brought her closer to meeting her long-awaited rainbow baby."
"This mom had an unmedicated labor with a midwife in a hospital setting. Here, her husband helps squeeze her hips as she works through a contraction."
"Labor is hard work...for toddlers, too!"
"This strong, determined second-time mom and her baby had a hard ride. Her baby was suspected to be posterior, but spun around near the end. It took so much power to get through the very end, and this moment pictured is just minutes before it got really intense. I love the break she was able to have as her husband stroked her hand."
"Can't you just hear the roar exploding from her as she pushes her baby out?"
"Chrystal focused on tackling each contraction with an immense amount of fierceness, bringing her daughter into her loving arms when it was time."
"This family connected through each contraction. I love seeing the dad's hand on his wife's belly. Their baby girl was born about 30 minutes after this photo was taken."
"There is a reason why they call it 'labor!'"
"This woman's mother was her doula. Here, they're less than 15 minutes away from meeting their newest family member."
"This was the most peaceful birth I have ever attended. The mom went through it completely unmedicated, yet she barely made a sound or changed her expression the entire day. She was so relaxed and focused."
"This mom told me: 'This was moments before meeting my baby. Emotions took over as I realized I was about to face the hardest, yet most rewarding part of all.'"
"This woman's midwife had a sense that the baby needed a better position to enter the world. With a rebozo and belly sifting, she helped to guide the baby."
"This mom, who ultimately had a C-section, works through the pain of labor on the birthing ball."
"This mom stayed calm and focused throughout each contraction."
"This was an incredibly beautiful moment, but if you look carefully at the photo, you can hear the screams. This is about five minutes before this woman's baby was born."
"This couple's first wedding anniversary was the same day as the birth of their first child. There was so much love in this room at Shiphrah Birthing Home in the Philippines."
"This mama labored on the stairs—with control and focus—for a long period of time."
"This mom was focused breathing her baby down."
"This amazing woman, the daughter of a local midwife, labored hard and fast. It was simply amazing to watch her complete trust in her own body as she delivered her baby girl."
"This determined mama labored at home for three days. Her patience and endurance were so inspirational."

Captions from the photographers have been edited and condensed.