You don’t have to look to far to find some reasons why this is believed. Every reality television show about labor and birth is quick to highlight the images of women, typically writhing in pain, during labor. Certainly this makes for great TV, so why wouldn’t they show it.
Now before you think I’m completely out of touch, I think there is pain in childbirth. Having had eight children, I’ve certainly been around the block myself once or twice. I’ve had short labors, long (45+ hours) labors. I’ve had an epidural and I’ve had natural birth. I’ve had forceps. One of my births was twins, weighing in at a combo of almost sixteen pounds. My biggest baby was 10 pounds 2 ounces. This doesn’t include all of the various labors I’ve attended as a doula.
My point here is that there are things that do hurt more than having a baby. When I asked some women recently what they thought hurt worse than giving birth, here is what they came up with:
- Broken Bones
More than one person when asked about what hurts more than labor mentioned this as more painful. One person mentioned a broken ankle specifically. The only bone I’ve really ever broken was my clavicle and it certainly hurt a lot. It effected my ability to move my arm, my shoulder and even turn my head. It lasted a lot longer than even my longest labor. I would think that something like a broken ankle would be even worse, given the wear and tear of having to use crutches.
- Migraine Headache
Migraines also topped the list of a couple of respondents. Having a migraine can last for days. Many sufferers report that the pain is unrelenting. There are also symptoms that come with a migraine like nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, etc. This can make your normal activities nearly impossible to complete.
- Kidney Stones
These were mentioned as well. Kidney stones have to be passed. I did have a friend who had experienced both childbirth and kidney stones. She swore up and down that childbirth was easier than the kidney stones. Though I’ve also heard others say it’s about equal, stating that, “Kidney stones are as close as a man can come to giving birth.”
Gallstones can also cause quite a bit of pain. While there are pain medications and nutritional avoidance of offending foods, this can plague you for a long time or come in waves of attacks. The moms who listed this said they’d be doubled over and nothing would really touch the pain.
- Bladder Infections
Bladder infections and urinary tract infections also made the list. This searing pain was described as ten times worse than having a baby. The commenter mentioned the ring of fire that last for days. That hurts just to think about…
- Root Canal
I know it’s common to mention dental work and the pain of childbirth, but it did come up. To those who like to say that you wouldn’t have a root canal without pain relief, why would you have a baby that way? I’d like to point out that our bodies weren’t meant to have root canals, but that they were designed to give birth. That said, as in birth, sometimes the pain relief doesn’t work and you can feel the root canal. There is also the aftermath of the root canal to deal with which can effect your daily activities for a couple of days.
Having any type of surgery can be more painful than giving birth vaginally. Cesarean surgery was specifically mentioned as was surgery in general. Obviously some surgeries are bigger than others, just as some labors are more painful than others, but the simple fact of cutting into the body can be very painful to recover from, even if you don’t fell the pain at the time of the incision.
- Induced Labor
I’d be remiss not to mention that induced labor was brought up in my comments. This is typically believed to be because your body is thrown into labor and rather than a slow build up, the goal is to get you to contractions every three minutes as quickly as possible and stay there until the baby comes out. I’d like to add that there are also many interventions used in labor, that add to the pain for labor, usually by restricting movement or causing fear in labor. Choosing interventions wisely and using them in ways to alleviate these potential side effects can address this. A birth plan is a great way to address that issue.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways to cope with pain in labor. There are methods that involve using relaxation, movement, water, IV medications as well as epidural anesthesia. There aren’t any wrong or right choices, just personal ones.
Though the next time you find yourself thinking that childbirth is the most painful thing you can go through, why don’t you stop and try to retrain your brain. Tell yourself that pain experienced in labor is only temporary, typically does not last for days, and it is intermittent. Remind yourself that you have many more tools to deal with labor that you learn in childbirth class than you would if you had broken your arm. That labor is more predictable than a gallstone or kidney stone. And the outcome is much happier than a root canal.
"We have a secret in our culture, it's not that birth is painful, it's that women are strong." - Laura Stavoe Harm