Menstrual pain compared to labor - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 06:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am pregnant with my first child and I have always had very painful menstrual cramps during the first or second day of my period. And by very painful I mean was frequently doubled over in pain, almost incapacitated, light-headed, weak, etc. This all sounds horrible when I write it down, but I really just became accustomed to it and it was something I expected and I knew it would only last a certain amount of time, so I could deal with it.

My question is, how many of you who have been through childbirth had painful menstrual cramps, and how did they compare to labor? Even if the pain wasn't the same, was it somehow comparable? Did your experience with cramps help you with labor in any way?

Forgive me if my questions are silly, but obviously I have no idea what labor really feels like. I know everyone's experience is different, but I think I've just always wondered why I had to have such painful cramps and am in the back of my mind hoping that they were somehow useful
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#2 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 06:35 PM
 
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I've had painful menstrual cramps though not quite as painful as those you've described. There were days I would stay home from work because I couldn't work. Labor is different for everyone. I felt my labor contractions were different from menstrual cramps. Labor contractions come and go. There's no continuous steady feeling of pain like menstrual cramps. Contractaions have an ebb and flow. Think of it as waves. The contraction builds and builds until it reaches a high point then it subsides and goes away. You have a break of so many minutes before the next one. I can't say that what I experienced during my periods helped me. I had hours of back labor and I was induced with Pitocin so the level of pain I experienced was beyond anything I had experienced during menstruation. Sorry...I know that's probably not what you want to hear.

One of the unexpected blessings of having my daughter is that my painful cramps have almost gone away. I can now have a period without needing to take anything at all for the cramps. If you had told me this was possible three years ago, I wouldn't have believe it. Perhaps the nerves become sensitized in some way to the prostaglandins? I don't know the medical explanation but I'm so glad for the difference. I hope you have the same benefit. Good luck to you!

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#3 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 06:58 PM
 
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I have never had severe menstrual cramps (except on occasion) but I thought labor pains had similar componants. The very early contractions felt like a light cramp and as it progressed it felt like stronger menstrual cramps. The 'pain' is similar to the dull kind of pain that cramps can feel like, and not as much like the sharp little pains that can accompany the period, at least for me. When they were very strong it was nothing like period cramps because I didn't feel it down low anymore, it felt like my entire trunk was contracting. Not to scare you or be too graphic but some contractions felt like every muscle in my body was pulling into towards my very center of my stomach and then some of the cntrx felt like everything was contracting away from my center, like I was pulling apart. But they are manageable, they must be because I'm hbing this next time! HTH

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#4 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 06:58 PM
 
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Fioner, I have wondered the same thing about my painful cramps...don't feel silly! I'm interested to see how others' contractions have compared to cramp pain, too.

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Originally Posted by BookGoddess View Post
One of the unexpected blessings of having my daughter is that my painful cramps have almost gone away. I can now have a period without needing to take anything at all for the cramps.
Wow! That is awesome. I hope that's true for me!
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#5 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 07:12 PM
 
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my menstrual cramps ranged from mild to fierce. My labor at the very beginning felt like regular crampy tummy, not very strong but just like crampy abdomen. The ctx got more and more intense as my labor progressed, but the cramps started feeling different than just "oh, I have a little belly ache". So I'd say at first they felt like regular mild menstrual cramps and then at the end they felt like really strong muscle tightening in my abdomen. As you already noted, everyone feels labor differently. My first baby I would describe ctx as really uncomfortable and intense but not really "painful". My 2nd baby they were also intense and uncomfortable but after being at 10 cm dilated for about 2 hours and pushing against an unbroken water bag, they just hurt (but it was still quite do-able so don't be scared of labor). All those ctx and associated feelings do have a purpose. They're hel;ping you push that baby out. woohoo!

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#6 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 07:42 PM
 
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My labor at first felt exactly like menstrual cramps. I've had severe cramps in the past, if I'd know how similar it was to early labor I'd have taken the opportunity to learn better coping skills, other than a shot of brandy, lol. It didn't really change as it intensified and spread over my abdomen til it was different that way... but I had a posterior baby so that may have affected what I was feeling.

I was a bit miffed since I really expected labor to be a completely different sensation than menstrual cramps, I don't know why, but nobody ever told me it felt similar.
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#7 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 07:48 PM
 
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I used to have very severe menstrual cramps. To tell the truth my labor pains were nothing like my menstual cramps. They hurt, but they weren't the same. And since my dd's birth my menustrual cramps haven't been as bad as they used to be.

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#8 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 08:02 PM
 
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Mother Nature has prepared you and all those cramps weren't for naught......as a former excrutiating menstrual cramp sufferer, when I went into labor I actually ignored it for a couple of hours because I simply thought I was having gas pains.....I was at work happily dealing with the public and gently biting my arm until the pains passed......but when the real deal started, it was simply like the WORST cramps you've ever experienced. Luckily, I had the baby within the hour after leaving work.....so I didn't have to suffer long (at all). I can't imagine laboring long because they were indeed, the worst menstrual pains ever, but on par, certainly. It literally felt like I needed to shit a bowling ball.....at some point of pushing, it hurts like a bitch but you just get into the pain to get the baby out of your body.....I now know what "ring of fire" means. My experience was drug-free......not so much as an aspirin. I was a month early, and there wasn't time for drugs....if I had wanted them.
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#9 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 08:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the replies! It's really interesting to hear about other people's experiences. And I love hearing from those of you whose menstrual pain decreased after having children! That's definitely something to look forward to, I've just been enjoying having a break from it while I'm pregnant.
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#10 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 08:27 PM
 
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In early labor, it felt just like menstrual cramps. As labor progressed to about half-way, it was like ultra-severe menstrual cramps. (like you mentioned) From there, it was like nothing I can describe. THAT BAD. I wanted to die. However, I had pitocin for the second half of my labor. I have yet to have a period yet, I am 15 months post-partum. So I can not comment on if my pains are less now or not.
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#11 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 08:39 PM
 
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I had really terrible cramps before pregnancy. I found early labor to be like mild cramps so I thought it would be a piece of cake. It didn't really get painful until transition and my water broke and without that cushion the cervical dilation feelings were...intense. It was more like being in pain and being tickled or something, just sensory overload, than it was unbearable pain. Same with pushing, it was intense but it was the "throwing down" feeling I hated more than the uterine cramping.

Weirdly enough it felt kind of like being uncontrollably sick to your stomach, you know true salmonella where you're puking in the tub while having diarrhea on the toilet...that's what the last part of labor felt like to me.

And I am happy to report my cramps are MUCH better after having been pregnant, too!
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#12 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 08:39 PM
 
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I have had Verypainful menstral cramps. early labor feels that way, but in rushes not consistent.

Once I was fully into labor, no, I can not compare the too. Contractions are much mroe painful, in a different way too, but they come and go, giving you breaks and opportunities to use various coping strategies for the next one.

And unfortunantly, my menstral pain increase after each child.

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#13 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 08:42 PM
 
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I had horrible cramps that left me unable to do do anything before I had my dd, now I don't have them at all. Nothing - barely a twinge, and that's an enormous difference. (Dd is 3)

And labor felt nothing at all like cramps, it was just a completely different type of pain for me. I was expecting similar pains to cramps and was blown away by how unexpectedly different (and more manageable!) the contractions were.

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#14 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 09:57 PM
 
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Labor was nothing at all like cramps for me - cramps are in my lower abdomen, and labor was all in my back.
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#15 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 10:19 PM
 
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Hey.

I had those kind of cramps, only add puking in a cold sweat to the list of ailments... :

Honestly, I don't think of my birth in terms of pain, though I know there was pain (and it was a 31 hour unmedicated homebirth), the experience and outcome outweighed any labor pain. I suppose I chose not to focus on the pain after all was said and done, so I don't have a clear recollection of the pain. But yes - there were painfully intense moments, and I know I puked during transition and I HATE puking.

Now, when I think about the menstrual cramps I had before dd was born, I have a clear recollection of the agonizing pain, curling up in a ball on the bathroom floor at work, or my mom rushing me to the ER screaming with cramp pain.

So while I'd say that the two pains are perhaps comperable in sensation, birth is overwhelmingly a more positive experience, and one is likely to have prepared for the pain, so coping may be easier. I think it will vary for the individual, but I will say that I think the bad cramps prepared me a little. Simply put, birth is just way cooler than having bad cramps.

And my cramps got better after birth. I have never had them as bad as I did before dd was born.
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#16 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 10:23 PM
 
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My menstrual cramps were mild-moderate. My contractions were about the same. With my first they felt crampy and my second they felt more like waves of pressure.

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#17 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 11:50 PM
 
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I had KILLER cramps....I would vomit at least once with almost every period, I would come very close to passing out, I would have to stay home (or go home) from work or school, and I'd spend the day lying in bed with a hot water bottle, and extra-strength Tylenol. If it started at night, I would often end up sleeping on the bathroom floor, praying for God to just let me die.

So.....yeah, I knew pain...unlike you, I never got used to it! lol

Labour for me was very similar...almost identical pain (complete with the hot pain radiating to your back, down your thighs, in your hips, etc.), BUT with some very helpful differences.

One difference is how long contractions last! Instead of having agonizing pain for hours without rest, you get a rest in between every contraction. Even when I was in oxytocin-induced labour, and my contractions were coming in 3's, whenever I had a break, I was eating popsicles, and talking with my doula and mother. Earlier, without the oxytocin, I felt like I could FLY in between contractions!!

Also, the pain had a purpose...you hear that SO often, but it's TRUE! Visualizing your body pushing the baby down, or thinking about the end result, is SUCH a great help, that you really don't have during your period!

But yes, to answer your question, the pain was very much the same for me. That doesn't mean it will be for you, but I'd say the chances are good!

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#18 of 33 Old 01-14-2007, 11:59 PM
 
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Labor feels different to every woman. It's just important to remember that when you ask this kind of question, since none of what you read may apply to you in labor!

FWIW, I have experienced extremely painful, debilitating menstrual cramps, to the point where I have more than once thought I was literally going to die from the pain, to where I became incoherent, and to where I actually (stupid, stupid!) accidentally poisoned myself (twice) with tylenol (didn't realize I was OD'ing until it happened twice, then put the pieces together). So I know what intolerable menstrual pain is like.

Labor pain had different dimensions to it, and for me, it was "easy" and pretty enjoyable until transition. Transition was difficult, but manageable. However, for me, second stage (transition/pushing, all felt the same) lasted over 7 hours. I dealt with it the best I could, but between the pain (which was bad and only got worse as I became more tired) and the other feelings of discomfort, like extreme pressure, I was in major discomfort. I feel that I dealt with it very well; I waited patiently and eventually transferred to the hospital, where I pushed dd out in 25 min. However, the pain and other unpleasant sensations (like that pressure I talked about) were extreme, excruciating, and I've more than once described it as "agony."

Despite all that, and how much I hated the way my NCB felt (for the last 7 or so hours, anyway - the earlier stuff was great!), I'd still do it again and I did get through it without asking for drugs. I'm hoping next time will be easier; who knows. In the end, though, if you have a painful labor, the good news is that you can handle it and manage it, especially if you have good support, and that once the labor is over, the pain is pretty much over. I say "pretty much" because I was stitched up w/out enough local and that was very painful, and I also had awful afterpains.

I don't want to "scare" you, but I would have liked to see a post like this when I was waiting to go into labor, so at least I'd know that a painful labor was a possibility, even if I labored in comfort and supported by trusted attendants. Anything is possible during labor! For myself, I'm hoping the second one will be better and easier, but if not, I'd still do it 100% natural. The birth was uncomplicated (despite being painful) and dd was born very alert, healthy, and pink.

And for sure, my experience with menstrual pain was instrumental in how I dealt with labor pain. All of active labor was a breeze. Sure, there was pain, but it was so manageable I was still enjoying myself between contractions! I was making a lot of noise, but they were good noises and I was telling dh between contractions that I felt good, fine. And really, if I hadn't had experience dealing with extreme pain, I never would have stayed home so long. I had a lot of lower back pain, and I was accustomed to severe, sharp menstrual pain, debilitating cramps, and back pain and cramping at the same time. It was a lot like that, except that you DO get breaks in between contractions that you don't get with really bad menstrual cramps. Despite how overwhelmingly painful it was, I actually spent two hours of that laboring in silence, breathing and relaxing through each contraction. If I hadn't had experience with persistent extreme pain in the past, I'd never have been able to do that.

Sometimes I feel like the odd man out b/c I had a planned, supported, uncomplicated NCB with a properly positioned baby that was just excruciating for 7+ hours. I hated that part of labor, and I hated pushing. AND I never had a pushing urge at all, which is unusual (but not unheard of). I'd say I'm definitely in the minority, though.

You're likely to breeze through and if you don't, you can be certain your experiences with extreme pain, especially in that region of your body, will guide you through. I hope you have one of those magnificent pain-free labors, though!

Julia
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#19 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 12:18 AM
 
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I used to have cramps that would make me throw up. My contractions felt pretty much the same, except I wasn't nauseated at all, and also there was something "extra" about them in that with every contraction I had a sort of tingly feeling, like an electric shock in what I think was probably my cervix. My contractions did get more intense as labour progressed, but I wouldn't say more painful... I just felt them in more of my body, if that makes any sense. Then the pushing contractions were completely different and not like menstrual cramps at all... extremely intense, uncontrollable, my body just took over and did the work for me and it was like I wasn't in my own body at all.

I did the hypnobabies program for pain management, so that might have affected my experience of the whole thing as well.
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#20 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 01:20 AM
 
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I had cramps that sound similar to yours...I simply couldn't function normally for a few days during AF. It was excruciating. Everyone told me labor was like bad AF cramps, but I didn't think so. Especially after my water broke, and they were EXTREMELY painful...they were NOTHING like cramps. Nothing.

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#21 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 04:04 AM
 
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I was hospitalized more than once for the pain of my period and given a number of Rx painkillers (this was back before I became a more crunchy person, and before I had kids or even got married). So with that said...

The *worst* labour pains were kind of like the worst menstrual cramps except more centered in my back/spine. HOWEVER... they were much easier to handle, mentally. Period cramps have no point, labour pain means a baby. Also, labour pains have an end in sight. Period cramps could go on for a week, continually, with NO break. No peaks and valleys, no nothing. Labour pains go on and off and generally last less than two days. You clearly see yourself getting further and further to the end.
So in that sense I think I actually find a period WORSE than giving birth.

Like, the other day I was talking to my best friend on the phone about this HUGE canker I had on my inner lip that was about an inch big. My friend said the cure-all was a slice of raw garlic applied directly. I whined to her that it would hurt a LOT to do that, but she reminded me it was only a little bit of pain and then it would be over.
I told her I was a wimp for pain and she goes, "Childbirth, woman!"
"But childbirth is easy, canker sores are serious business!"

I honestly find the idea of putting raw garlic on a canker WAY more scary than the 44 hours of labour I had with my daughter.

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#22 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 04:09 AM
 
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I had pretty bad menstrual cramps pre baby. Labor was a lot like them until the pushing phase. And to add my voice to others - I got my period back at 18 months pp and had NO cramps whatsoever. Oh my, it was heaven!!

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#23 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 11:27 AM
 
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I have had serious menstrual cramps in the past and a few ovarian cysts that have ruptured. Labor felt similar to what it feels like when a cyst ruptures, except you get a break between contractions and no break with a cyst. I guess you could also compare it to menstrual cramps too.

Unfortunately my PP period (at 17 mos pp) came with some serious cramps. I hope they go away this time around.

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#24 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 02:21 PM
 
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I had a client, pregnant with her first child, a few years back, who was ADAMANT about planning an epidural during labor. She was absolutely convinced that there was NO WAY she would be able to handle the pain.

When she did go into labor, she breezed through the contractions, saying "This is NOTHING compared to my monthly cramps". By the time she thought about drugs, she was 9.5 cms and pushing. She has no pain meds, and wondered what all the fuss was about!

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#25 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 03:09 PM
 
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Contractions (not counting back labor) were exactly like menstrual cramping for me in terms of type of pain, although with contractions it ebbs and flows rather than is constant. For me it got intense, but never like the OP describes.

I have to comment on what bookgoddess said about her menstrual periods getting less painful after birth -- mine got *more* painful. Before I ever gave birth I rarely had any cramping during menstruation and no PMS. Afterwards I started to get PMS and sometimes serious cramping.
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#26 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 03:11 PM
 
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My labor pains had a similar *quality* of pain as my menstrual cramps - very low and achey. The duration and intensity was very different. The fact that there's the excitement of a baby coming (as opposed to, well, a not really exciting period) also changed my perception of the pains.

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#27 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 03:40 PM
 
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My sister had periods so bad they made her vomit and have to stay home from school sometimes. She got to 6cms on pitocin without any drugs. Pit is evil, getting to 6 cms on it without ANYTHING, I give her huge props.
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#28 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 03:46 PM
 
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Well, I've never had PMS cramps and my labor was pretty mellow until it got totally underway and turned into back labor.
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#29 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 05:34 PM
 
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My mum told me that having a baby would cure my menstrual cramps, and she was right! It also cured the pain I had from adhesions from a pelvic infection.

On the other hand, the terrible afterpains I had after dc#2 may be the tradeoff for no more menstrual cramps.
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#30 of 33 Old 01-15-2007, 06:23 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fourlittlebirds View Post
I have to comment on what bookgoddess said about her menstrual periods getting less painful after birth -- mine got *more* painful. Before I ever gave birth I rarely had any cramping during menstruation and no PMS. Afterwards I started to get PMS and sometimes serious cramping.
Me, too. Exactly. I'd never had a cramp or hint of PMS in my life until after birthing. Sigh....

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