Wondering how painful childbirth will be is totally normal. Answering the question of just how painful though is a little less straightforward.
Recently, we posed this question to our Facebook followers and were flooded with incredible answers. Some were blunt, some were beautiful, and some were hilarious metaphors that painted a disturbingly clear picture. I’m looking at you, boulder pooper.
How Painful is Childbirth?
What Science Says
Unfortunately science doesn’t have a ton of concrete findings on this. There’s a crappy meme out there that claims childbirth clocks in at a whopping “57 del” on the pain scale, which admittedly sounds frightful. But a little digging shows that there is no such pain scale (thanks, Snopes). The meme, just like unicorns and affordable shiplap, is entirely urban legend.
Pain is difficult to quantify, and everyone experiences it differently, but there’s still one important thing science has to offer. Studies have shown that fear can make pain worse, so fear of childbirth (among eleventeen hundred other factors) could make your experience more painful.
How Painful is Childbirth According to Our Readers
How people answer this question varies wildly, but we’ve broken them down into a few categories.
The “Little Engine That Could”
1/ I have what I consider to be a pretty low pain tolerance and there was no point where I thought, “I can’t do this” From water breaking (first sign of labor) to baby being born was about 23 hrs for me and I’d say about 10-11 of those hours were “hard” or “painful”. If I can do that, anyone can. – Emm
2/ The contractions are so intense you can’t think about it being painful. You can’t actually think about anything. You are just in it. So present. It’s impossible to do anything except give birth. – Hollie
3/ So empowering! Pain with a purpose – Rebecca
4/ It was uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t really say it was horrible. I did get tired of pushing, but would birth a million babies if I didn’t have to carry them!! – Kelly
5/ It feels like waves crashing through you, this incredible force of nature that you can’t escape. You just have to try to breathe when you can and let it wash over you. It also feels kind of like a poop. – Megan
6/ In my opinion, it hurts so good. Any other time we experience pain it is because something is injured, something about our body isn’t like it should be. With childbirth, your body is doing what it should. You feel your body getting one step closer to meeting your child. – Lisa
The “Everything Hurts and I’m Dying”
7/ 0/5 stars, do not recommend – Judith
8/ Nurse: Are you ready to push now? Me: I’m ready to die now. (Daughter came too quickly for me to get an epidural so I had to do it au naturel) – Elizabeth
9/ While the contractions were extremely uncomfortable, the worst part is near the end, when the head pops out and the shoulders are next. This feels like what’s going to break you, then you push one more time and the baby comes out. Immediate relief. You can breathe again. -Sandi
10/ I remember thinking how the efffff do people do this multiple times and some without epidurals!! Then I held my boy and didn’t even notice the stitching and sewing back together of my nether region. – Erica
11/ I remember closing my legs and saying: “okay I’ve had enough, I’m going home now” and when I was “encouraged” to keep trying, I screamed at my unborn child to get the F@#$ out of me!!! -Meg
12/Painful enough to bite my husband and hold on like a scared lizard when he stupidly put his arm on the bed in front of my face. – Marie
13/ I’m not religious but I may have seen Jesus it was so painful – Adrienne
14/ Imagine a more severe, drawn out version of when your stomach turns so badly you have to sit on the toilet for a while hoping you can purge your body of whatever is ailing you. And it doesn’t let up until it expels the baby like diarrhea. And pushing the baby out felt like pooping out a watermelon. – Cristina
The Hilarious Metaphors
15/ It feels like being really constipated and trying to poop out a boulder the size of a planet. – Bekah
16/ Like being split in half with the Jaws of Life, which someone has so kindly heated up first in the fires of hell. So, y’know… a walk in the park really. – Moni
17/ Crapping out a pineapple accurately described it – Elissa
18/ I will say this… Johnny Cash doesn’t know a thing about the “Ring of Fire” – Melissa
19/ Call my crazy but I love labor! It’s like climbing a hill. It’s tough and really steep at times but oh man the top (birth) is exhilarating!! I look forward to it every time. It’s hard work and kinda intense but amazing. – Erin
20/ It’s like running a long-distance race. In the middle all you can think is “UUUGGGHHHHHH THIS SUCKS ARE WE DONE YET?” but at the end you think “That was awesome! Let’s do it again!!!!!!!”- Jacquelyn
Everyone’s labor is different
Now of course we all know labor is different for everybody, so answering this question is tricky. That said, mentally preparing yourself for a variety of situations might help you dig deep and achieve the unmedicated birth of your dreams, or know your limits and jump on the epidural train.
Either way, there’s zero shame, and whatever path you take you embrace that shiz and get down with your bad self. Okay? Okay.
How would you describe labor to someone?
Let us know in the comments below!