Women and Knee Replacement Surgery: More Painful Than Giving Birth?

Closeup of total knee replacement patient exercising


There is no question pain can affect anyone following knee replacement surgery. Anyone who has had any joint replaced will tell you the aftermath is not an easy path, particularly pain wise.

Some women who are fellow knee warriors compared knee replacement surgery with giving birth – and often stated knee replacements were more painful!

Perhaps they have a point. I never had children but can identify with pain and discomfort following TKR.

Recovering from having a baby doesn’t take 12-18 months, for example. Thousands of knee replacements are done daily in the United States (and add in countless procedures from other parts of the world). Pain management is vital in the post-op stage; while any surgical procedure is associated with post-operative discomfort, total knee replacements pain can be manageable with pain medications. Here is the catch: pain medication works best when patients experience pain in its early stages, which is why it’s essential to request medication while hospitalized (or immediately take the recommended dose while recovering at home) during the first sign of discomfort. By the time you’re in total agony, it will take longer for pain relief to kick in from medication. Believe me, I know!

Ice packs also help to some degree; one can never use too much ice, especially in the early stages of recovery. Physical therapy can be painful following surgery, but think of the alternative of not doing those exercises at all. PT pain is good pain. Not moving the knee at all is only inviting additional trouble.

A Health Day News article reprinted on WebMD discusses study that types of anesthesia and patients’ weight were also factors in the levels of discomfort affecting women following TKR.

Younger women tend to have higher levels of pain than their mature counterparts, especially those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or following joint injuries. The most pain experienced is usually during rest, so physical activity does indeed benefit us in the long run no matter how much it hurts at the time.

Some hospitals’orthopedic surgery departments offer a pre-op joint replacement workshops. I highly recommend attending these; pain and options for effective management are two of many topics discussed. If this is your first surgery, joint replacement workshops are beneficial in giving patients general ideas what to expect. Anyone needing subsequent surgeries, these workshops are great refreshers.

Many who have knee replacement surgery eventually conclude that pain relief from having TKR is well worth various stages of discomfort following surgery. I always said my biggest regret is not having mine done earlier, pain, stiffness, and other post-op effects. Keep in mind this stage is only temporary.

What about you? How did you manage your post-TKR pain and do you think the procedure was worth it? Was the pain indeed worse than giving birth or about the same?


4 thoughts on “Women and Knee Replacement Surgery: More Painful Than Giving Birth?

  1. Sept 9th I will be at 3 months since I had my tkr and the pain I’m still having is tremendous. I would never have this done again. Yes having a baby is a lot easier. I go back to my Dr in one week and I’m hoping he can give me an answer on why my pain is so bad. Had an X-ray done and shows a small amount of water on the knee. Wishing all of you who are or who are considering tkr good luck.


  2. NO. Recovery from child birth takes about 24 YEARS, and emotionally you are never ever the same. So, NO. Not at all for me. I did not have a lot of pain following either of my knee replacement surgeries. I was back at work in less than 3 weeks following both surgeries and did a lot of work from home even a day or two after surgery. That 36 hours of hard, induced labor that resulted in an emergency C-section with little pain medication took me 8 full weeks to recover from to go back to work, and about 8 more weeks to where I felt half way hormonally stable. My youngest is going turn 9 in 3 weeks, and I still get labor pains in my back. Most ladies do not remember labor pain because of hormonal floods. Knee replacement was a PICNIC compared to that. It was also way way easier than double mastectomy which had me cut in half from arm pit to arm pit across my chest and involved muscles and lymph nodes and jacked up my hormones again. WAY easier. It was also much, much easier than the hand surgery I had on my left thumb. Going 8 weeks without a pincher grip is HARD. I was back up on my knee/leg in mere hours following TKR both legs. I was never on crutches. I was able to go up and down stairs, which I could not do at all before the TKR. Ice managed my pain and I did not even use pain killers after my second TKR on my right knee. No. TKR was not at all bad compared to the pain I had in my knees prior to surgery. If this is the hardest surgery you have ever had, count yourself extremely lucky.


  3. Hi, I’m 3 months post bilateral total knee replacements. I read a lot about how people suffer such terrible pain with their surgery, but it wasn’t the case for me. I prepared for the surgery by losing weight, and after I focused on my recovery and worked hard on the physical exercises. Sure, there were days that were hard and post surgery there was pain, but it wasn’t for a long period and I got over it. And 3 months later, I’m very much enjoying the great new life that this has given me. Freedom of movement! For me, both of my births were hard and fast (under 3 hours natural births with some gas). Perhaps I’m lucky enough to be able to manage pain well. I wish I’d had mine done earlier too! So glad I’m a recovering knee warrior. Laurel


  4. I am not quite 3 weeks out. PT is hard and painful but it’s a good pain. My problem is sleeping. About 1-2 hours into sleeping, I wake up in excruciating pain. Pain meds don’t touch it. Excercise and working muscles do not help. I walk the floors. I need suggestions. If it weren’t for that I would say, TKR was a great thing. But no adequate sleep makes me feel bad all day and I’m at my wits end. Definitely this part is worse than child-birth. If anyone has any suggestions, I would appreciate it. Dr said increase pain meds, that didn’t work. PT has no suggestions that I haven’t tried. I need relief and sleep.


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