8 Things That Hurt Worse Than Childbirth

What Hurts Worse Than Labor?

Woman in labor in hospital bed
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There are plenty of things that pregnant women admit that they do not know about pregnancy. They might not be sure when they will feel their baby move when prenatal care moves to every week or even when their belly will show, but there is one thing that almost every pregnant woman believes that she knows for sure: Childbirth is the worst pain you could ever feel.

You don’t have to look too 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.

The point here is that there are things that do hurt more than having a baby. When asked what they thought hurt worse than giving birth, here is a look at what some people came up with as their responses. Keep in mind that everyone experiences situations differently, so what might be more painful for one person, may not be for the other. It is also important to note that when talking about a negative birth experience, pain is not the leading factor for women.

Broken Bones

X-ray of a broken arm
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Breaking a bone sounds painful. Though obviously not all broken bones are the same. Some are serious and require large casts for long periods of time, and some are really serious and might involve surgery and placing hardware, like actual pins and screws into your body.

What might make one bone hurt more than another might be the location of the break, the type of break, etc. Though one big thing to keep in mind is how often you use the area that is broken. One example might be that a broken rib might ache every time you take a breath, whereas a small finger fracture might be fairly well stabilized and not as painful once it's in a splint or cast.

Another thing to keep in mind that some broken bones can mean weeks or months of treatment. Typically, even a really long labor is rarely longer than a day.

Migraine Headache

Migraine headache
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Migraine headaches are also huge sources of pain for some people. It is important to note that this is not your typical headache where you pop an over-the-counter pain pill and continue on about your day. Some people who have migraine headaches wind up losing hours or days to debilitating symptoms. Some of these symptoms can include: 

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • light sensitivity
  • visual disturbances

Many migraine sufferers wind up taking prescription pain medication to both prevent and treat migraines because these symptoms are often quite debilitating.

Kidney Stones

Kidney Stones
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Kidney stones are small stones that form inside the kidney. Kidney stones have to be passed through your body. This means that the stone, either whole or broken into bits, will need to come out - usually through the bladder, but potentially through surgery. Symptoms of kidney stones can include:

  • fever
  • sweating
  • chills
  • back pain
  • constant urge to urinate
  • nausea
  • vomiting

This is one of those things that you can chalk up to the body not being designed to birth kidney stones, but it is designed to birth a baby.


Gall Stones

Gallstones are small stones in the gall bladder. 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. These attacks frequently include the following symptoms:

  • unremitting pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • back pain
  • fever

While some gall bladder attacks will be dealt with by simply prescribing pain medication and a new diet, after awhile, there may be a need for surgery to remove the gall bladder itself.

Bladder Infections and Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

Woman in pain on toilet
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Bladder infections and urinary tract infections also made the list. These infections can cause a lot of pain including:

  • burning
  • frequent urge to urinate
  • back pain or lower abdomen and sides
  • blood in urine
  • fever

These infections are not a picnic, and sometimes just being pregnant can increase your chances of getting a bladder infection.

Root Canal

Root Canal
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Many people want to compare the pain of childbirth with the pain of dental work. Certainly, your body is not designed to have dental work done in the same way that is was designed to give birth. So when you are talking specifically about a root canal, you are talking major dental work requiring a specialist. Here a hole is drilled inside the tooth and the nerve underneath the tooth is removed from the root. A filling is used to fill the tooth back up, but the pain stops because the nerve has been removed.

While the intense pain does stop once the root is removed, there is residual soreness. The aftermath of the root canal can affect your daily activities for a couple of days and require pain medication.


Photo © Chris Ryan/Getty Images

Surgery is something that is obviously painful for most people. Though some surgeries are more involved than others. Surgeries frequently involve cutting tissue, muscles, or organs. It also involves simply moving internal structures around to get to the part of the body that requires surgery. Think about a heart surgery that requires the sternum to be cracked and removed to even just get to the heart. You can image that the pain from this would last for weeks and maybe months, often requiring a lot of therapy.

Certainly some surgeries are not this involved. Surgeries that involve the use of laparoscopy or band aid surgery, are less painful than surgeries where there is a larger incision made. While both do have elements of pain, some may last longer depending on the type of surgery, the location of the incision or surgery, and the health of the individual.


Induced Labor

A man helps a woman through labor
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We’d be remiss not to mention that induced labor as a source of pain that is potentially worse than your standard spontaneous labor. This is typically believed to be because your body is thrown into labor quickly by the use of medicinal or mechanical means and rather than a slow build up.

In addition to the potential rapid onset of labor, there are also the other things that may be required to mitigate the risks of the induction methods used. These interventions used in a labor induction, can add to the pain. This may be from the actual procedure itself or by restricting movement or causing fear, which can increase the pain. Talking to your practitioner and choosing interventions wisely and using them in ways to alleviate these potential side effects can address this issue. This might be where your birth plan can help you address issues that concern you.

The good news is that there are a lot of ways to cope with pain in labor. There are methods that involve using:

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 a 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. 


Henriksen L, Grimsrud E, Schei B, Lukasse M; Bidens Study Group. Factors related to a negative birth experience - A mixed methods study. Midwifery. 2017 May 8;51:33-39. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2017.05.004. [Epub ahead of print]

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health. Kidney Stones. Bethesda, Maryland; updated September 2016.

Sacks, D. Bladder Infection - Adult. MedLine Plus. September 2016.

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