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what does a contraction feel like ?

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It's a tightening of your stomach, similar to cramps, but it goes all the way around your body.  You will feel it in your back at the same time you feel it in your stomach.  If you are only feeling them in your stomach it's likely Braxton Hicks (the false contractions).  Think of it as a rubber band around the lower half of your body, it will all tighten and ease at the same time. 
Like when you make a muscle, say in your arm, it gets hard and tight, well a contraction is your uterus muscle tightening and it will make your stomach feel hard to the touch.

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