If you have never experienced childbirth pain, comparison of the pain of a variety of births might help you decide what kind of birth you’d like to have, and might also prepare you for what you personally might experience during childbirth.
If you haven’t already, head on over to Ultimate Guide to Pain in Labor and Childbirth to read it first. This is Part 2: Childbirth Pain Comparison—Real Women Share Their Birth Stories
I collected the birth stories of 12 different women in relation to the pain that they experienced in labor and childbirth. Some felt more pressure. Some threw up, some tossed their birth plan out the window. One mother even describes her uterine rupture.
You’ll notice just how different everyone felt and how they managed their pain. (It’s truly amazing how different each mother’s birth story is!)
Until you have experienced it, you can’t know what to expect. The range of pain in labor and childbirth and types of pain is quite vast.
But ultimately, these 12 mothers all had healthy babies, which is the most important outcome!
Real Women Share How Painful Giving Birth Was for Them
My Story with Childbirth Pain–Comparison of My Two Births
During my first son’s birth, I had to be induced. When they started me on the even lowest level of pitocin, my contractions increased significantly. I was freezing cold, shaking uncontrollably, and my contractions were right on top of each other. Since having a second child, I can tell you that those contractions weren’t even very strong, but because of the fact that they did not relent, I couldn’t withstand the pain. I opted for an epidural and got about 7 hours of broken sleep before the doctors told me I was 10 cm dilated.
But when comparing it to my second birth, the first was easy! It was the birth of my second son that inspired my interest in childbirth pain. I went into labor on my own. We went to the hospital before the contractions were very intense because they were so close together, but I was getting a good 1 to 2 minutes in between each contraction.
After labor started to pick up and the intensity increased, I couldn’t do anything but scream during each contraction. My uterus was so strong that I felt completely awash in its energy, and I was completely powerless. My husband told me later that every single person in that hospital knew I was a soprano! But screaming was the only outlet I had.
The only grace was the 1-2 minutes in between each contraction. I used my self-hypnosis training to rest, go deep in myself, and gather my power and breath for the next contraction.
I only endured less than one and a half hours of extreme pain (transition lasted about 1 hour and I pushed only 4 or 5 times) before D was born. Because he came so quick, and the anesthesiologists were tied up in a C-section, I was unable to have an epidural or pain medications of any kind.
The most painful part was when D’s shoulder got stuck. His head was out, but because he was in an awkward position and his shoulder was digging into my pelvic bone, it increased the pain of my contraction to a level I did not think was even possible. What’s worse, the pain of the contraction lasted far longer than 60 seconds, because it took until after the contraction had passed before the nurses and midwife had dislodged him.
It took me quite a few weeks before I felt I had emotionally recovered!
Childbirth Pain Comparison of 11 More Women–
The Whipple Was More Painful
Britta, from Home Sweet Homemaker shares about the birth of her son, which ultimately resulted in a C-section, and her Whipple procedure shortly after.
“My labor with my 1st and only child was the worst pain I had experienced up to that point in my life. I had a 40 hour labor at home with no pain medication whatsoever. My transition alone was 10 hours, with 4 hours of pushing with baby’s failure to descend. I remember they tried to get me into different positions to get him out, but the only position that I wasn’t in agonizing pain was leaning forward over something. But with that position, they made me squat to push and that totally depleted all my energy.
“My water never broke, but I ended up giving up because I was in so much pain and decided to head to the hospital for a c-section. Four months after my labor, I had the Whipple Procedure to remove a pancreatic tumor. That pain was far worse than my labor, but at the time of having my son I had no idea it could be worse than that. Overall, I would rate the pain of my surgery at a 10, the pain of my labor at an 8-9 and the pain of recovering from a c-section at around a 4-5.”
The Birth plan was out the window!
Jade, from Heathy Quest Mom, explains how her birth plan changed after experiencing labor pains for the first time.
“So, I was pregnant with my first baby. And I was all about having a natural birth. Yes… No epidural?! Had my birth plan, bags ready to go… just waiting on baby Chloe. Since it was my first baby, my doctor thought I would go passed my due date. But no, Miss Chloe decided to come a few days earlier (9 days to be exact). Water broke after getting out of the shower. I was a little caught off guard but so glad it didn’t happen in public. No contractions just a little gushing of fluid… So I’m thinking this birthing thing is a piece of cake. I got this, right?! 2 hours later… contractions hit. Painful, but bearable. So we headed to the hospital and got settled in our room. Still able to tolerate the contractions. I have a high tolerance for pain , you know! At least, I thought…
“Until about 4 hours later… the pain took a turn for the worse. These weren’t regular contractions. They felt like death cramps!! It felt like my baby was clawing her way out. Dr… I need that epidural STAT!! So my birth plan went out the window and I opted for the epidural. What a relief!! And 18 hours later, my sweet baby was born via C Section. And I wouldn’t change a thing!”
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Jennifer, from Failure to Thrive No More, tells how after an induction and terrible pitocin contractions, she got an epidural that only worked on one side.
“I had an induction on February 22, 2017 with our second child. I was only 3 cm and 75% effaced when they gave me pitocin. I was contracting but didn’t feel any of it until my Midwife broke my water. Since I had so much pitocin in my system, I began feeling the contractions.
“They were excruciating and 2 minutes apart. I asked for the anesthesiologist, he came 30 minutes later and gave me the epidural. Apparently I waited too long and I progressed too quickly because it only worked on half of my body.
“I ended up feeling EVERYTHING on my right side, pushed out little Jaxson in four pushes, and recovered quickly. The pain was definitely 100 times worse than menstrual cramps.”
Pressure Was Worse Than Pain
Abby, from The Mom Corner, experienced the never-ending pitocin contractions, but she was more sensitive to the pressure than the pain.
“I was induced with my first child at 41 weeks. For me, the pain of labor felt just like menstrual cramps. To be honest, the pain itself wasn’t bad at all–I’ve definitely had menstrual cramps that hurt worse than labor did. However, I did end up getting an epidural due to the pressure I experienced.
“The Pitocin I received to induce labor caused me to have nonstop contractions, or at least what felt like it. It honestly felt like there were no breaks between contractions. That constant pressure made me feel like I couldn’t breathe. I could, obviously, but it felt like I couldn’t. For that reason, I opted to have an epidural, literally at the last minute (I was 8cm dilated by the time the anesthesiologist showed up!). So while the pain didn’t bother me, the pressure definitely did!”
Pudendal Block with the wrong medication
Mikaela, from The Messy Bun Mom, got a pudendal block that didn’t work entirely!
“I was induced at 39 weeks with my daughter due to high blood pressure. This was my first child and my labor and delivery was only about 9.5 hours long. I was dilated to a 4 when I got to the hospital.
“My contractions were so light at first I couldn’t feel them. When I was around 6cm dilated I could finally feel the contractions and they felt like very mild period cramps. I was laughing and talking through all of my contractions until 8cm when the pain really hit. They felt like very strong period cramps that would slowly start and then get really bad and quickly subside.
“I got a pudendal block before I actually delivered but it didn’t completely numb me because the nurse gave my OB the wrong medicine. The actual birth felt like intense stretching and pulling. Then it was over and I felt no pain at all!”
Cendu, from Cenzerely Yours describes her labor contractions as feeling as if her insides were being twisted.
“My pregnancy was pretty crazy by the end because of my gestational diabetes. Due to my diabetes my placenta had deteriorated faster than expected and so it was time for baby to make his grand entrance 2 weeks ahead of schedule. Prior to all this, I was planning on a natural birth without the use of pain meds or other labor augmenting interventions. I learned it’s better to approach labor and birth with an open mind.
“I had to be induced to start my labor and the initial contractions were fairly tolerable. They felt like really intense period crams. Uncomfortable but nothing I couldn’t handle. A few hours went by and I my labor still hadn’t progressed so the doctor decided it was time to break my water.The actual procedure itself was not too painful at all but the contractions that followed were like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.
It was such an intense feeling and because I was strapped to all kinds of monitoring devices, I was told to stay in bed and try not to move around too much. I think I would have been able to handle the pain better if I could have been mobile. The pain was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced, it came in waves and felt like my insides were being twisted. I lasted another 8 hours before I finally decided I couldn’t take any more and begged and pleaded for an epidural ASAP!
“Relief flooded me quickly once the epidural was in and I was finally comfortable again. I literally couldn’t feel a thing, crazy! My labor eventually resulted in a C-Section and a healthy baby boy. This was my very first experience with birth and labor and although it was crazy painful, I still think I’d like to give natural birth another try if I can avoid diabetes the next time around.”
The Pain of Uterine Rupture
“My birth story is slightly different from normal.
“As for labor pain I was never in that horrible breath taking pain while contracting. I was in labor maybe 10 hours before given the epidural and given that my expectations had been that I would be in endless pain everything seemed to be a breeze.
“I was given the epidural and couldn’t believe I was allowed to get it when my contractions hadn’t felt that strong. I suppose they were stronger than I had thought and the epidural allowed me to sleep comfortably.
“After being comfortable and relaxed for a few hours I began to have a sharp pain on my side. The pain came from my right side just slightly above where the rest of me was numbed by the epidural. I mentioned it and then gave it no thought and numbed me further.
“Within what felt like 10 minutes the pain grew stronger and graces heart rate stopped. They began rolling me side to side until realized it wasn’t helping and dropped me back onto my back.
“At that moment I felt the worst pain I assume one could ever feel. Certainly my insides had torn in half right there. My body began to fill with blood no longer allowing my lungs to expand fully. I was suffocating.
“With the nurses not knowing what to do my father stopped the cords from the machines and yelled. With my dad by my side along with 4 or 5 others I was ran down the hall in and out of consciousness.
“I was finally cut open with blood pooling on the floor and my daughter purple and lifeless being rushed away. The pain from my uterus being torn in half and pressure of them moving my organs around didn’t allow me to think of anything but dying.
“I was finally given anesthetics and didn’t have to suffer the rest of the surgery. I woke up loopy from the medication and surrounded by family who could finally assure me that Grace was ok.”
Wanted an unmedicated birth, and ended with a C-section
Abby, Kin Unplugged, refused pain medications, but the birth happened via C-section.
“I had been having abdominal contracting pains for a week before I gave birth. They started at 2am every day and subsided by 7am. By the day I gave birth, I was in pain until about 9am and had decided to go to the labour ward even though my waters hadn’t broken. My plan was to beg them to at least check me out! I sat on a bed in the ward and my waters broke immediately.
My TENS machine became my best friend as for the next 8 hours, my contractions continued to intensify and although my midwife begged me to take the epidural, somewhere in my pain-ridden brain, I had decided it wasn’t an option. I even refused to pop a basic Ibuprofen! Fast forward another two hours and my baby was born via C-section because I simply wasn’t dilating fast enough! :-D”
Natural techniques and an Epidural
Kate, from Kateable, describes natural techniques early in labor, but received an epidural for rest.
“Because of my anxiety, I chose to be induced a week early for my firstborn. I was only 2 cm dilated, so they performed the first medicine to induce me. Typically, that first medicine takes 12 hours, then you move onto the IV medicine. However, it took one hour before I was in immense pain.
“I worked through the pain for 11 more hours, before finally, I was able to get an epidural for the remaining nine hours of my labor. My husband helped me manage my pain through massages, bouncing on a birthing ball, and positive affirmations all the while deep breathing. We also danced to help alleviate the pain.
“Even though the pain was immense during those hours, we were able to make it through. Once I received the epidural, I was able to laugh and smile for the rest of my labor. I’m grateful for the epidural to get me through the rest of labor. I know sometimes it does not work for everyone; however, for me, I consider it a blessing.”
Short Labors and Lots of Vomit
Renita, Diary of a Farm Wife, shares her story about both labors that were quick, but she suffered through uncontrollable vomiting.
“My pain was short lived compared to those that labour for hours or days! My very first babe was not even a 2 hour labour. I had lots of period like cramps and aches leading up to it but I’m naive and thought it to be those 9 month overdue pregnancy blues! I woke up that morning and felt something was off and that I would meet baby soon! Went back to sleep and had cramps throughout the day but nothing serious.
“Went to bed again and at midnight felt very bad and erupted in puke everywhere! I’m a puker for 9 months as it is! Allergic to being pregnant I’m sure of it! Once the puking started it didn’t stop even with drugs. By the time my kind husband got me in the vehicle and to town it was about 1am. I was still puking and at this point my contractions were one on top of the other barely could walk down the hall! The nurse checked me and said oh you’re only 3cm I was like you have to be kidding this will be awful! They wouldn’t give me anything in case labour stopped. All I could have was a hot bath! I was so mad I could have sat at home in a hot bath and puked my guts out at home instead!
“So in the tub things changed very promptly! One very big contraction and then no breaks just constant contracting and puking! So I told my husband to call the nurse back over about 5 minutes because I could hardly talk for the puke and pain! Then the nurse came in to the tub room and was like oh your straining a bit maybe we should get you back on the bed and check! Well, I’m not moving so they carried me to the bed and went to check and oh the baby is crowing the head is right there! Mass panic in the room while they call the doctor in! Doctor was my family doctor, so that was nice.
“By the way I’m still puking at this point! I drank water continually just to have something to puke! By this time it was 2am and I did 3 pushes and baby was out! So overjoyed that all the pain was wiped away quickly! Only needed 3 stitches! No epidural or drugs of any sort as things progressed so quickly there was no time!
“Once she was out I finally stopped puking! Amazing!
“My second born, our son – once again didn’t know what we were having but I had a very strong sure feeling it was a boy and I was right! His arrival was very very quick! I woke at midnight my husband was out farming in the field a half hour away with not good cell reception he cold only get text messages at one end of the field so I messaged him at midnight to ask when he was coming home. Dozed off again and then something rude woke me at 1:15am!
“Not a contraction really just a rude jump up awake feeling! Then guess what?! I started puking! Went to town, checked in at 1:50am to hospital – still puking. Then I had one major contraction and literally felt the baby drop right down turn and start pushing out I was still fully dressed! So things happened fast after that! He arrived so fast it was a very messy birth! When delivering a baby, I sort of go off into a different little world on my own and don’t really remember it. The pain is what makes me puke constantly I think!
Planned Water Birth Needed Adjusting
Patricia, The Healthyish Home, talks about finding the best position to labor and birth in.
“Labor pain is unlike any type of pain I have experienced before. For me it was a slow build up. As my contractions got closer together, the pain got stronger. The pain was the strongest when I was pushing. Thankfully during the pushing stage of labor, after every contraction, my pain went away and I was able to catch my breath.
“I went through a natural birth which means I was unmedicated the entire time. I had to find other way to lessen the pain. My husband was a huge part of this. He pushed on the lower part of my back during my contractions and held me during every one. I also utilized our shower. I felt the most relief when the hot water was spraying, with the hardest setting, on my lower back.
“Before I gave birth I had an idea of what I thought was going to work best for me. My goal was to have a water birth, but when I got into the birthing pool and I hated it! Instead, I listened to my body and tried positions until I found one that was the most comfortable. For me that was standing up. I ended up standing for most of my labor because that where I felt the best.”
An Epidural That Got Turned Off
Julie, from Fab Working Mom Life, explains after an induction, why they had to shut off her epidural.
“I was induced at 38 weeks due to gestational diabetes. The nurse hooked me up to the IV right away and I spent the night “ripening” before Pitocin was even started. In the middle of the night, I started getting really bad back pain, and I couldn’t do anything with having to be laying down, so I asked the nurse for IV medication. Those put me back to sleep after immediately making me dizzy and buzzed.
The doctor started me on Pitocin in the morning, but it took a while for the contractions to get severe. I managed the earlier “period cramp” contractions with walking around and massages. After a while, many many hours – in fact, the contractions started getting a bit intimidating. At that point, the nurse told me I was only dilated to 4. So I had a long way to go. The nurses talked me into getting the epidural then since my plan was always to get it when the pain became unbearable. They said don’t wait for it to be too intense, because of the time it takes to get the doctor to approve it, get the anesthesiologist to come, etc. So I agreed, and my time of walking around was over. I took a really long nap while my body continued to dilate.
“When I was awake again it was getting close to the end of the shifts for the nurses. They told me I was at 10 and ready to push, but I couldn’t feel when to push. So they turned off my epidural – they said they could only turn it off, not adjust it. It would require the doctor coming back to make any adjustments. That’s when the pain returned, in full-force, and I couldn’t do anything about it. It took me 3 hours of pushing (and a shift change in between) and a migraine to finally give birth to my baby. At that point, my legs were still spaghetti but I could feel everything else.“
You can see just the variety of experiences these women had. If you’re going to be a first time mom and wondering what kind of experience you will have with childbirth pain, comparison of these births may help you.
My suggestion is to keep an open mind and do what you need to find the balance that works for you! Things might change very quickly once that baby is on its way!