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-   -   What's worse: kidney stone or childbirth? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=863867)

markn+ 10-13-2018 02:54 PM

What's worse: kidney stone or childbirth?
 
The first time I had a kidney stone (I've now had about 7 or 8 I think) I went to the emergency room because I didn't know why I was suddenly having this unbelievable pain. The doctor there diagnosed the stone, and mentioned that his aunt had had five children, including a pair of twins, but she always said that her kidney stone was a worse pain than any of the childbirths. (The doctor also said that kidney stones can produce the most intense pain a person can experience and survive.)

So for the women here who have experienced both, do you think kidney stone pain is really worse than childbirth? (Of course I know that individual childbirths vary greatly, as do individual kidney stones, so we can't conclude anything definite from these anecdotes.)

rat avatar 10-13-2018 05:11 PM

While being male and having experienced neither; my late grandmother said the same thing, that kidney stones were far worse.

Beckdawrek 10-13-2018 05:18 PM

Always heard that to be true. I can believe it.

Baker 10-13-2018 05:46 PM

I never had a child, so I can't speak from experience, but my urologist told me that he'd had mothers say that stones were the worst

I seem to remember a similar thread, and one poster spoke of her sister who, while in labor, started to pass a stone.

don't ask 10-13-2018 06:01 PM

You don't have to raise the kidney stone.

Projammer 10-13-2018 08:03 PM

I have personally heard women say that they want another baby and I have never even heard of anyone claiming that they want another kidney stone.

Therefore I can only conclude that kidney stones are worse.

DigitalC 10-13-2018 09:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by don't ask (Post 21265294)
You don't have to raise the kidney stone.

I wish we had upvotes.

outlierrn 10-13-2018 09:56 PM

I've been asking my female patients for years, >9/10 said the kidney stone was worse without hesitation.

Qadgop the Mercotan 10-13-2018 09:58 PM

A childstone is the worst.

Lithopedion.

Riemann 10-13-2018 10:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by outlierrn (Post 21265588)
I've been asking my female patients for years, >9/10 said the kidney stone was worse without hesitation.

I think memory of pain can be quite unreliable. Since childbirth is otherwise a joyful occasion, I wonder if that influences the memory? It would be interesting to know whether pain levels reported during the experience tally with the remembered experience.

Sunny Daze 10-13-2018 10:53 PM

I've had natural childbirth and a large kidney stone. I'd want to do neither again (although I did have another kid). They were both unbelievably horrible. With the kidney stone, the nurses were coaching me in lamaze breathing because I was hyperventilating with the pain, and they don't give painkillers until they run a bunch of tests. With the baby, I remember focusing on a picture in the room through the contractions. After the delivery, my blood pressure was dangerously high (apparently due to the pain, per the doctor) that I was held for several hours until it dropped, before they moved me to another room.

Things vary from stone to stone, baby to baby. They were both horrendous.

panache45 10-14-2018 01:12 AM

Neither. A ruptured appendix is worse than kidney stones or childbirth.

Siam Sam 10-14-2018 01:16 AM

A swift kick in the nuts. Absolutely.

Sarabellum 10-14-2018 02:26 AM

I once gave myself a bad papercut to the eyeball.

Worse than childbirth. Although, the papercut pain was over more quickly than childbirth, it was a sharp, overwhelming sort of pain that I hope to never see the equal of again. I'm guessing it's about on par with passing a kidney stone.

What Exit? 10-14-2018 09:15 AM

My sister, also an RN for 40 years now, has delivered twice, had kidney stones and gall stones. She reports kidney stones are nearly as bad as giving birth. "Without question the closest a guy will come to that type of pain."

I've only had kidney stones, the first time when the unknown was also in play was severe, the second time was also really bad. I'll admit the third and last time was only painful. What I am saying is I am saying is I am glad I can't experience childbirth.

outlierrn 10-14-2018 11:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Riemann (Post 21265596)
I think memory of pain can be quite unreliable. Since childbirth is otherwise a joyful occasion, I wonder if that influences the memory? It would be interesting to know whether pain levels reported during the experience tally with the remembered experience.

Good points all, and both vary, from event to event.

Dr. Girlfriend 10-14-2018 11:51 AM

I've not had kidney stones or children but I saw what kidney stones did to my dad. 6'4" 350 pound guy laid flat from the kidney stones.

My boss has twin boys and just recently had a bout of kidney stones. She said no contest the kidney stone pain was worse than giving birth.

Napier 10-14-2018 01:09 PM

I posted the same question quite a few years back, and IIRC got 17 replies from people who had experienced both. All 17 said the stone was worse.

But I doubt it would stay anonymous. I've had more than 40 stones myself, and they vary quite a lot. If you want to know what a stone really feels like, ask somebody who has only had a few. I had a 13 mm stone removed by lithotomy and it was very painful, but I had a stone of about 3 mm that I passed while driving. Big difference.

Colibri 10-14-2018 01:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Siam Sam (Post 21265778)
A swift kick in the nuts. Absolutely.

Bad enough, but overrated. I've had worse pain than that (from pinched nerves, broken ribs, etc) and I've never had a kidney stone or given birth.

Maserschmidt 10-14-2018 02:11 PM

Male perspective - on one hand, the kidney stone was so painful (it took four days to pass) that I started out vomiting and writhing around on the hospital bed. On the other hand, they gave me dilaudid and I felt great! - and I'm not sure anyone giving birth has a similar option. So, in my admittedly male ignorance of childbirth, I'd rather have the kidney stone (presuming the right drugs are available). Plus, you do get to have a kid when it ends.

Baker 10-14-2018 03:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Maserschmidt (Post 21266362)
Male perspective - on one hand, the kidney stone was so painful (it took four days to pass) that I started out vomiting and writhing around on the hospital bed. On the other hand, they gave me dilaudid and I felt great! - and I'm not sure anyone giving birth has a similar option. So, in my admittedly male ignorance of childbirth, I'd rather have the kidney stone (presuming the right drugs are available). Plus, you do get to have a kid when it ends.

The night I suffered my first attack I was in the ER. When I finally got a painkiller I was given Demerol, right in the IV. I felt like I was floating an inch off of the bed. "Pain? What pain?" After that I understood how folks could get hooked on painkillers. We just don't know how good the simple lack of pain feels.

markn+ 10-14-2018 04:03 PM

Yeah, same thing happened to me. I was vomiting and writhing on the hospital bed. The nurse asked me my pain level and I managed to say "ten". Finally she gave me a demerol shot. A few minutes later she came by and asked my pain level, and I had to say "zero". The worst pain I'd ever experienced completely disappeared in a few minutes.

I caught two of my stones, the first one because they wanted to test it; I can't really remember why I caught the second one, maybe just curiosity. They were both tiny, like grains of sand. It's hard to believe something that small can cause that much pain.

Maserschmidt 10-14-2018 07:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Maserschmidt (Post 21266362)
Male perspective - on one hand, the kidney stone was so painful (it took four days to pass) that I started out vomiting and writhing around on the hospital bed. On the other hand, they gave me dilaudid and I felt great! - and I'm not sure anyone giving birth has a similar option. So, in my admittedly male ignorance of childbirth, I'd rather have the kidney stone (presuming the right drugs are available). Plus, you do get to have a kid when it ends.

:smack: I meant 'though you don't get to have a kid when it ends'

Quote:

Originally Posted by markn+ (Post 21266493)
Yeah, same thing happened to me. I was vomiting and writhing on the hospital bed. The nurse asked me my pain level and I managed to say "ten". Finally she gave me a demerol shot. A few minutes later she came by and asked my pain level, and I had to say "zero". The worst pain I'd ever experienced completely disappeared in a few minutes.

I caught two of my stones, the first one because they wanted to test it; I can't really remember why I caught the second one, maybe just curiosity. They were both tiny, like grains of sand. It's hard to believe something that small can cause that much pain.

They told me I needed to catch mine for testing, but on day four I suddenly had to ask my wife to stop at a little gas station in Vermont, dashed into the bathroom, and there it went. :rolleyes: Eh, good riddance you little bastard.

mistymage 10-14-2018 11:28 PM

Birthed 3 kids with 2 of them I was already suffering from the staghorn kidney stone in my left kidney. Unlike normal stones these guys are silent as in pain until one day you realize you have been on antibiotics for a couple of years for UTIs and sinus infections and your back really hurts to the point you were diagnosed with scoliosis... leaning away from the stone.

18 months of various ABX, and an ultrasound only to be told nothing was wrong with me. I had a meltdown and the urologist sent me for an XRay and, hey! Surgery! Your entire left kidney _is_ a stone! The ESWL pretty much killed what was left of my kidney but I did get to pass a stone the was like a pea cut in half (thankfully through a catheter type tube). Today they don't use ESWL on stones as big as mine was.

The difference in giving birth and passing stones is that with giving birth the pain comes in waves (contractions) that are long but have breaks in between. Passing stones equals intense constant pain that doesn't stop until the stone is gone. And I appreciated my babies a lot more than any of the stones or sand I passed.

The last time I passed a stone I did Lamaze breathing which impressed the nurse. She was also impressed on how much morphine it took to get me to relax. The doctor who did the catscan was amazed that my kidney was still working at all.

I'm on lifelong daily Nitrofurantoin since they couldn't remove all of the stone. Without the ABX the stone regrows but with it... it still grows but slower. 2 mm bigger the last time it was checked about 5 years ago. It's like not fun coral in my kidney.

BobLibDem 10-15-2018 07:35 AM

Just curious if it would be possible to pass a stone while giving birth. If it has been done, I'd like to know how that went.

BrotherCadfael 10-15-2018 08:52 AM

I've had three kidney stones, and am very, very fortunate in that NONE of them were painful. A little nausea, and a slightly uncomfortable feeling as it actually passed.


My brother and sister, on the other hand, have both had very, very painful kidney stone episodes.



As I said, I am very, very fortunate.

Uosdwis R. Dewoh 10-15-2018 09:24 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Riemann (Post 21265596)
I think memory of pain can be quite unreliable. Since childbirth is otherwise a joyful occasion, I wonder if that influences the memory? It would be interesting to know whether pain levels reported during the experience tally with the remembered experience.

Does the pain in the moment actually matter then if it's distorted in memories? Like, I could imagine someone suffering from ptsd after a particularly painful kidney stone, less so with childbirth (unless it's a exceptionally difficult birth).

Shinna Minna Ma 10-15-2018 09:29 AM

I had a kidney stone, once, several years ago. The pain was horrible, worse than my heart attack.

My wife birthed 3 kids.

Whenever I bring up the kidney stone vs. childbirth debate, my wife tells me "no uterus, no opinion."

senoy 10-15-2018 02:13 PM

I've had two kidney stones. They were both horrific experiences. The last one, I felt a twinge near my kidney that I think I could describe as discomfort. Within five minutes, it had ramped up to painful. I just made it to the bathroom in time to begin vomiting. I vomited for maybe three minutes, then passed out from the pain. Woke up an undetermined amount of time later and began vomiting again. I couldn't even get my phone out of my pocket to call anyone. I finally managed to get just enough air to say 'OK Google call <wife>' I think I said something like 'Bathroom, work, help.' She came and I helped me to the car. I made it to the ER and just cried for hours. They put me on a morphine drip which didn't help, but the Fentanyl dulled it enough that I could talk. It was not a fun experience.

Velocity 10-15-2018 02:24 PM

Question from an ignorant XY-chromosomer here:

I have read something to the effect that childbirth pain is considered tolerable by many women because of what it results in - a child being born. Does that mean tolerable only "after the fact," or does it actually alleviate the physical pain of labor itself somewhat?

Enola Gay 10-15-2018 02:34 PM

I've had both and the answer is, it depends. My first delivery was horrible. Way worse than any of the kidney stones that I have passed. But my second delivery was a breeze (thank you, epidural!) and a walk in the park compared to kidney stones.

Enola Gay 10-15-2018 02:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Velocity (Post 21268084)
Question from an ignorant XY-chromosomer here:

I have read something to the effect that childbirth pain is considered tolerable by many women because of what it results in - a child being born. Does that mean tolerable only "after the fact," or does it actually alleviate the physical pain of labor itself somewhat?

IME it is only tolerable after the fact. You see a beautiful baby & forget how miserable it was.

Mama Zappa 10-15-2018 07:53 PM

I have never had a kidney stone.

I *have* had a gallbladder attack - which, as with kidney stones, you hear women comparing to childbirth, and saying the gallbladder is worse.

I have given birth, twice. With failed epidurals both times. Oh, and the second time was a c-section. That was not all that much fun.

By comparison, the gallbladder attacks (over several days) were a slightly-doubled-over walk in the park. I'd definitely choose that over childbirth - the only truly intolerable part was that I developed unremitting ITCHING of my hands and feet, that had me sleepless for 48 hours.

I would assume a kidney stone would be far worse than that, and quite possibly worse than childbrith. I hope I never find out for sure.

Riemann 10-15-2018 08:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Uosdwis R. Dewoh (Post 21267445)
Does the pain in the moment actually matter then if it's distorted in memories?

With anesthesia (where you're unconscious), in principle we can't actually prove whether it works, or whether it just makes us forget hours of excruciating pain. Although it's implausible that it would also suppress the physiological symptoms that usually accompany pain, so I think we can be reasonably sure!

A more realistic question: how often do patients wake up in excruciating pain during an operation because of a screw-up, the OR staff cover it up, and the patient forgets?

kambuckta 10-15-2018 08:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Velocity (Post 21268084)
Question from an ignorant XY-chromosomer here:

I have read something to the effect that childbirth pain is considered tolerable by many women because of what it results in - a child being born. Does that mean tolerable only "after the fact," or does it actually alleviate the physical pain of labor itself somewhat?

It's hormones, specifically oxytocin that flood the post-partum female body after birth and while breastfeeding continues. It contributes towards a type of 'maternal amnesia' that causes women to quickly forget the intensity of the labor itself and to focus upon the baby.

I had four kids. After the first I said, 'Never again'. But I did it again, and only remembered how bad it was when I was in labor again. And then twice more.

If women remembered how painful their labors were, the human race would have died out many generations ago. Nobody would have had more than one kid. :D

Velocity 10-15-2018 08:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Riemann (Post 21268797)
With anesthesia (where you're unconscious), in principle we can't actually prove whether it works, or whether it just makes us forget hours of excruciating pain. Although it's implausible that it would also suppress the physiological symptoms that usually accompany pain, so I think we can be reasonably sure!

A more realistic question: how often do patients wake up in excruciating pain during an operation because of a screw-up, the OR staff cover it up, and the patient forgets?

I think that, if anesthesia were merely a pain-masker, it would show in strong levels of muscle tension and super high blood pressure, and a patient waking up utterly exhausted and traumatized.

Mk VII 10-16-2018 03:53 PM

7th. Up, and was pretty well, but going to the office, and I think it was sitting with my back to the fire, it set me in a great rage again, that I could not continue till past noon at the office, but was forced to go home, nor could sit down to dinner, but betook myself to my bed, and being there a while my pain begun to abate and grow less and less.
Anon I went to make water, not dreaming of any thing but my testicle that by some accident I might have bruised as I used to do, but in pissing there come from me two stones, I could feel them, and caused my water to be looked into; but without any pain to me in going out, which makes me think that it was not a fit of the stone at all; for my pain was asswaged upon my lying down a great while before I went to make water. Anon I made water again very freely and plentifully. I kept my bed in good ease all the evening, then rose and sat up an hour or two, and then to bed and lay till 8 o'clock.


Diary of Samuel Pepys, March 1664

markn+ 10-16-2018 04:16 PM

Sounds like Pepys was unaware that a kidney stone causes the most pain passing through the ureter, from the kidney to the bladder. Once it reaches the bladder, there's usually little pain involved in it passing out through the urethra. I've talked to some people in the 21st century who were similarly unaware of this.

Major Matt Mason 01-11-2019 02:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DigitalC (Post 21265545)
I wish we had upvotes.

Me too. :D

-MMM-

Mona Lisa Simpson 01-13-2019 12:07 PM

The first time I had kidney stones I was a nursing student. I was doing research at the hospital the day before clinical practice. I started having back pain, and blamed the cramped conditions and old chairs. The back pain got worse and I started feeling nauseous and having diarrhea. Although I wasn't finished doing my patient research I could no longer concentrate on my patient charts and decided to go home and come in early to finish my research before my shift at 7 a.m.

I left that hospital caught a bus home, and halfway across town, I realized I was going to be very very sick. I got off the bus at the university, made it inside a bathroom door, projectile vomited and barely made it to the toilet before the other end emptied contents. The pain was blinding and I saw blood in the toilet ... I didn't know if it was blood in my urine or my stool but as soon as I thought I could leave a tiled environment I got out of there and (pre-cell phones) called a cab... to another hospital ER. I could barely stand when I got out of the cab, and ER attendant basically scooped me into a wheelchair. (it was weird because I was wearing nursing student ID and a lab coat)

I had to call my clinical teacher to report that I wouldn't be at the hospital the next morning. She had seen me about 90 minutes earlier so she was wondering what was going on. Fortunately, she could hear the overhead page in the background so knew I was at a hospital. "Its either a kidney stone or my insides have liquified" was apparently what I said. (This is from her report. I really have no memory of making that call.) The hospital called my parents based on notes in my file. I spent the next 36 hours in some sort of Demerol haze. It didn't touch the pain, it just made me not care.


My son was born by c section after hard labour without my cervix opening, and he was in distress. A few days later my staples ripped open and I had to have packing dressings to my wound from mid-December to the first week of April. I'd still pick child birth.

The only good thing was the kidney stones were over quickly and didn't require orthodontia.

RickJay 01-13-2019 01:30 PM

I just had my first kidney stone before Christmas. First you're afraid you're going to die, and then you're afraid you won't.

I ain't birthin' no babies anytime soon, but have already been told by three women who have that kidney stones are worse.

Dangerosa 01-13-2019 02:28 PM

Depends on the baby and the kidney stone.

My husband's kidney stone was small, passed relatively quickly, and once he figured out it was bad, they put him on good drugs. When it passed two days after the first pain, he hadn't even needed the drugs for 32 hours - and once it passed it was done.

My labor contractions lasted about the same amount of time, but they wouldn't give me pain meds until I was sufficiently dialated - and it was really painful. During delivery I tore, and it took about two weeks to get so I could walk into and through Target for diapers.

And hormones with a birth do help with the pain and the memory of the pain. You don't get those with a kidney stone.

My labor was worse than his kidney stone. But some people take weeks to pass a kidney stone (I can't imagine) and some people give birth easily.

racer72 01-13-2019 03:17 PM

I present another issue that causes the kind of pain no one ever wants to have, omental infarction. The pain is in the chest and abdomen and circles the whole body. I could barely breath, I could only take short shallow breaths till I was but on oxygen. Caused by a virus in the chest cavity. The first time I had no idea what was causing the pain, I spent 12 hours in ER, an ultrasound and CT scan showed nothing. I overheard a doctor calling me a druggie going through withdrawals. Some good pain killers and time and the pain subsided.

6 months later it hit again. Went to the same ER so they had a record of my previous visit. The doctor treating me diagnosed me with the omental infarction. A couple of shots between the ribs and some good pain relievers in the IV, I was out of the hospital in about 9 hours.

The third and last time I was on vacation when it hit. My only option was a small town hospital and again, I was treated as druggie going through withdrawals. This time the pain was much worse than the first 2 times. Apparently someone writhing in pain on the floor is common at this hospital, none of the doctors or nurses did anything for over 2 hours. I truly wanted to die the pain was so bad. My wife was going to drive me 4 hours to another hospital before I was admitted. After reviewing my previous medical records, I was finally given the treatment I needed.

What ever caused this has healed apparently, it's been 4 years since my last attack. I also carry my medical records on a thumb drive with me at all times just in case I have another attach.

Anny Middon 01-13-2019 03:40 PM

I've never experienced childbirth, but I have had kidney stones. The first time I ended up in the ER, curled into a ball, moaning from pain.

Even though I dislike that "There are 2 kinds of people in the world..." statement, I did decide that there may in fact be only two kinds of people in the world: Those who have had kidney stones and those who don't understand what all the moaning and puling is all about.

Having said that, I'll point out that many folks have kidney stones and don't know it -- it's only when the stone obstructs the flow of urine that you get the pain. Well, usually you get pain. I had a stone that was found sort of by a fluke -- I had a CT scan for something else. That stone was obstructing and my right kidney was at least a third larger than my left, but I never experienced pain. Most medical people were dumbfounded, but the nephrologist told me that if the stone forms in a spot where it gradually cuts off the flow of urine, sometimes there's no pain.

Mona Lisa Simpson 01-14-2019 08:24 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Anny Middon (Post 21428332)
Even though I dislike that "There are 2 kinds of people in the world..." statement, I did decide that there may in fact be only two kinds of people in the world: Those who have had kidney stones and those who don't understand what all the moaning and puling is all about.

I can't find it, but somewhere doing some research for a class I found the statement that the worst pain humans can experience is any kind of obstructive pain, where something solid is trying to pass through an opening that cannot stretch far enought to accomodate it. Which explains why childbirth is compared to kidney stones... but the cervix and vagina are infact designed to stretch enough for a baby. Not often, and not easily, but at least they are built to stretch. Not so with ureters.

Folacin 01-14-2019 09:25 AM

I've had bad kidney stone pain 3 times (once for stones on both sides - laser up my penis for one side, ultrasound for the other) - the only thing that might have been worse for me was one time I hurt my back, which pain dropped me to the ground immediately.

Question: I know that evolution doesn't actually work this way - but what the hell is the reason for pain receptors in the kidneys? Pain is your bodies way of saying "stop doing that" - and what does my hunter-gatherer body think I'm going to do about a kidney stone, beyond writhing on the ground to tell the passing tiger "here's an easy meal"?


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