Women Discuss the Health Condition More Painful than Childbirth

People who have given birth have been discussing whether or not kidney stones and other medical trauma are actually are more painful than giving birth in a viral Reddit post.

Kidney stones are often suggested to be more painful than childbirth, sometimes by people who haven't actually given birth.

The comments on the Reddit post vary in their opinion of whether or not kidney stones, and other painful events, are more or less painful than childbirth.

Stock image of kidneys with kidney stones. A viral Reddit thread discusses whether kidney stones really are more painful than childbirth. iStock / Getty Images Plus

One comment said: "Years ago I had this nail tech, I told her how I was having kidney issues that have me a lot of pain and before I could finish she said: well, I hope it's not stones because I have 4 children, all four natural births, the third one took more than 24 hours to come out, and I would rather birth them all again back to back than pass those kidney stones again."

Others agree, saying: "I had a kidney stone, I couldn't walk and was vomiting from the pain. Several days, all I could do was wake, crawl to the bathroom, take meds and drink powerade, then go to sleep for 4 hours and do it all over again. I'd have another child any day."

Nine percent of people will get kidney stones at some point in their lives, with the peak age being 45. The kidneys function by filtering unnecessary chemicals out of our blood and getting them out of the body via the urine: kidney stones are caused by certain chemicals crystallizing rather than being harmlessly passed out the body, dissolved in the urine. These crystals may then grow into a little stone, usually around the size of a chickpea, but potentially, in rare cases, as big as a golf ball. They can be incredibly painful as they move from the kidneys down the ureter to the bladder.

"Kidney stones need to pass through a narrow tube called the ureter on the way from the kidney to the bladder," Luis Ribeiro, a urology junior clinical fellow at Guy's and St Thomas'​ NHS Foundation Trust, tells Newsweek. "Normally this tube is just small enough for urine to pass through but when a stone gets stuck, the tube tries to squeeze against it to remove the blockage. This squeezing, in combination with urine backing up into the kidneys, causes the pain."

kidney stones
Stock image of kidney stones next to a centimeter scale. Kidney stones can grow up to the size of a golf ball. iStock / Getty Images Plus

There are several types of kidney stones, the most common of which are calcium-based stones. Others include struvite stones made of calcium, magnesium and ammonium phosphate, uric acid stones, and cystine stones.

"There are multiple causes for kidney stones," said Ribeiro. "They can be related to low water intake and dehydration, as concentrated urine can make it easier for stones to form. Diets with high levels of oxalate or uric acid, often found in chocolate and red meat respectively, can increase your risk of stones. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes and gout can cause kidney stones. Genetic factors can also play a role for some people."

Not everyone who has given birth agrees that kidney stones are worse, however, as some say that childbirth was a lot more painful.

One commenter said: "I've had kidney stones and gallstones and I've also gone through labor, and labor pains are far worse."

"I agree. I've had kidney stones and gallbladder attacks, both made me almost black out. But nothing compares to the medication free childbirth that I went through," said another.

According to Ribeiro, many patients report kidney stones as the worst pain they have ever experienced.

"There have been a few surveys which looked into kidney stone pain versus childbirth. A recent one in 2017 reported that 79 percent of women who had experienced both said it was more painful than or similar to giving birth," he tells Newsweek.

Pain is relative for each individual, so comparing two medical experiences may not be entirely accurate, especially when around half the population cannot experience one of them.