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How Painful Is Childbirth?

woman in labor

Before you give birth, you'll probably hear a lot of horror stories from friends and family and even well-meaning strangers about how painful childbirth can be. Some women describe it as the worst pain they've ever experienced! And yes, logistically, childbirth is going to hurt. You're pushing a fully-formed human baby out of your uterus, through a very narrow passageway, and out of a hole that is (let's be honest) way too small, even at its biggest. There's really know way to get around it! But, as with anything pregnancy and parenting related, it's all about perspective. And when it comes to childbirth, it's all about your pain tolerance and ability to withstand what is certainly an incredibly intense experience. There's no shame in doing childbirth your way, whether that be free of pain relief or with an epidural. But if you're wondering how painful childbirth is, here are some firsthand experiences from moms who've been through it.

Like a hot poker in the back.

"Contractions were like a hot poker on my back and then it is gone. It got much worse after my waters broke and I needed more pain relief from then (pethadine). I guess I always expected it to get unbearable so left pain relief until I felt I really needed it. I got to 7 cm with no pain relief and then gas and air and pethadine in the last 10 minutes. Yes it is extremely painful but it isn't constant pain so there is a relief from the pain."

A positive pain!

"At the top of the peak it was almost unbearable and just as I thought I couldnt take any more it went away. It was a positive pain though as you know it will end and they will get closer together. I found that they only 'hurt' when I was frightened and tense and overwhelmed, if I concentrated on keeping all my muscles relaxed -my jaw especially it wasnt too bad. Visualisations and breathing exercises really helped me cope, as did my TENs which was fab for keeping me relaxed and provided counter pressure for the back contractions."

Everyone's experience is so different.

"It is really really different for different people - for me the only equivalent was period cramps - but stronger - not more painful exactly -I wouldn't say its the worst pain I ever had".

It's not all bad!

"Of the pushing contractions, all I can say is that I knew I had to push. And it felt good to push!"

"Pushing was really easy, not painful at all."

It's not a walk in the park, but believe it or not, there are things that hurt more than childbirth.

The thing about childbirth is that it's something you can (theoretically) prepare for, and you know that it will end. At some point, hopefully not long after it starts, it WILL be over! Is it painful? Yes, there's no way to deny that. But there are plenty of other things that can and do hurt more!

Take broken bones, for example. It hurts to break a bone! Sure, you can't compare breaking a toe to childbirth. But consider breaking your femur or suffering a compound or open fracture. Not only in the pain immediate and intense, the recovery is significantly longer and more difficult.

You know what else hurts as much (and sometimes more) than childbirth? Kidney stones. The stones that form in your urinary tract have to come out, either in pieces or whole. And oftentimes, people don't realize they have kidney stones until they're in the process of passing them. Our bodies are designed to birth babies, but our urinary tracts are really designed to pass hard, immovable stones.

Headaches are generally manageable. Annoying, but manageable! However, there are some headaches that cause pain so severe, sufferers are rendered incapacitated for hours or days at a time. Migraines can affect your vision, balance, and even cause nausea and vomiting, and typically don't respond to over-the-counter medication. Cluster headaches have been described as feeling like giving birth through your eyeball.

Childbirth is painful, there's no doubt about it. That's why we have epidurals and pain meds! But it's not impossible. Don't let the fear of pain stop you if you want to experience unmedicated childbirth. If you go into it prepared, chances are you'll make it through.

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