8 Experiences That Hurt More Than Giving Birth

There is one thing that almost every pregnant woman believes: Childbirth is the worst pain you could ever feel. You don’t have to look too far to find out why. Television shows about labor and birth are quick to highlight images of women in labor writhing in pain. And just about every pain you can imagine is compared to the pain of childbirth.

However, there are some things that women who have experienced both say hurt more than giving birth. Everyone experiences pain differently, so what might be more painful for one person may not be for another.

Things that can hurt more than childbirth
Illustration by JR Bee, Verywell

Broken Bones

Breaking a bone is painful. While not all broken bones are the same, some, like a compound fracture of a femur, will knock you off your feet for some time. In addition to needing to wear a large cast for a long period of time, compound fractures may also require surgery to place hardware, like pins and screws, into your body.

The location of the break and how you use that part of the body can also determine how painful it is. A broken rib might ache every time you take a breath, whereas a pinky-finger fracture might be fairly well stabilized and not as painful once it's in a splint or cast.

Some broken bones require weeks or months of treatment and years of residual pain. Childbirth, on the other hand, only lasts several hours, and even very long labor rarely lasts more than a weekend.


Certain Headaches

Headaches can be severe—beyond the typical ones where you pop an over-the-counter pain pill and continue about your day.

Migraine headaches are huge sources of pain for some and can last for hours or days with debilitating symptoms like:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Light sensitivity
  • Visual disturbances

Many people with migraines wind up taking prescription pain medication to both prevent and treat these symptoms.

Another type of headache is said to be even worse. Cluster headaches cause extreme pain around the eye socket, can last for hours, and reoccur daily.

Sufferers have described cluster headaches as feeling as though you are giving birth through your eyeball, but without the prize of a baby when you are done.


Kidney Stones

Kidney stones form in your urinary tract and have to be passed. This means that the stone, either whole or broken into bits, will need to come out. Kidney stones usually pass through the urinary tract and exit the body through the urethra. Some stones require surgery. Symptoms of kidney stones can include:

  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Back pain
  • Constant urge to urinate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Women who have experienced both kidney stones and childbirth say passing a stone is worse than childbirth. After all, the body is not designed to pass kidney stones, but it is made to birth a baby.



Gallstones are small stones in the gallbladder that can cause quite a bit of pain. While there are pain medications and nutritional guidelines to help manage these, gallstones can plague you for a long time or come in waves of attacks. These attacks frequently include symptoms like:

  • Unremitting pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Back pain
  • Fever

While some gallbladder attacks can be dealt with by simply prescribing pain medication and a new diet, after a while, there may be a need for surgery to remove the gallbladder itself.

Women who have had gallstones and also given birth say gallstones were much worse.


Bladder Infections and Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

Bladder infections and urinary tract infections (UTI) can cause a lot of pain, including:

  • Burning
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Back pain or lower abdomen and sides
  • Blood in urine
  • Fever

UTIs and bladder infections are very uncomfortable, and sometimes women also get these infections during pregnancy.

Women who have experienced bladder infections or UTIs and pregnancy say the pain from infections can be worse.


Root Canals

Many people compare the pain of childbirth with the pain of dental work. A root canal, for example, is a painful procedure: 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, and the pain stops because the nerve has been removed.

The pain of a root canal starts before the procedure with a toothache that can last a while before getting in to see the dentist. While the intense pain involved 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, make it difficult to eat, and require pain medication.

Women who have needed root canal say it is worse than childbirth.



Surgery is obviously painful, though some surgeries are more involved than others. Cutting tissue, muscles, or organs, or moving internal structures to get to the part of the body that requires surgery will leave a person in pain for days and weeks afterward.

Heart surgery, for example, requires the sternum to be cracked and removed to get to the heart. The pain from this can last for weeks and maybe months, often requiring therapy to help manage.

Surgeries that involve the use of laparoscopy are less painful than surgeries where a larger incision is made. While both 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.

Needless to say, recovery from surgery can be more painful than childbirth.


Induced Labor

It would be remiss not to mention that induced labor is a source of pain that can be potentially worse than your standard spontaneous labor. This is because your body is quickly thrown into labor using medicine, rather than through a slow build up.

Other means may be required to mitigate the risks of the induction method used. These interventions can add to the pain, either because of the actual procedure, restrictive movement or by inducing fear, which can increase the pain. Talk to your practitioner and choose interventions that can alleviate these side effects.

Methods for Coping With Labor

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

There aren’t any wrong or right choices, just personal ones.

A Word From Verywell

The next time you find yourself thinking that childbirth is the most painful thing you can go through, stop and try to retrain your brain. Tell yourself that the pain experienced in labor is only temporary, typically does not last for days, and is intermittent.

Remind yourself that you learned more pain-fighting techniques during childbirth class than exist for broken bones, that labor is more predictable than a gallstone or kidney stone, and that the outcome is usually much happier.

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