"A large number of women want to avoid pain. Some just don't fancy the pain [of childbirth]. More women should be prepared to withstand pain… pain in labour is a purposeful, useful thing…such as preparing a mother for the responsibility of nurturing a newborn baby," (Dr Denis Walsh-Associate Professor of Midwifery, United Kingdom, July 2009).
OMG! (Oh my god!) WITRMBSATITDAA?! (Who in their right mind believes such a thing in this day and age?)
I feel a little nervous starting a series of blogs about labor pain management. The discussion many times becomes overwhelmed by extremes of beliefs that accuse each other of often untrue and imagined practices. On one side are those that passionately advocate for natural, unmedicated labor and on the other those that believe medicalized pain relief is often the best choice for most women. The former at its extremes paints a picture of scalpel wielding, episiotomy cutting physicians who want to expedite delivery in time for the first “tee-off”. The latter on the other hand portrays an image of incense burning, oil rubbing midwives who would go beyond the boundaries of safety to achieve natural birth.
In my experience neither of these portrayals is anywhere near accurate. However it’s the extremes that grab the headlines and leave pregnant women confused and sometimes forced to choose sides.
Forgive my slight detour but this is very similar to our current debate on healthcare reform. If one listens to the loudest voices the choices are either granny killing death panels on one side or gun toting poor people haters on the other. The majority of us want to hear a reasonable mature discussion where all sides are heard and acknowledged, (I know people tell me I’m naive!).
Over the next couple of blogs I will discuss what options may be available to manage pain during labor. From medications and epidurals to meditation and guided imagery. Whatever pain management technique you may be drawn to, knowledge is empowering.
Some of my patients tell me that they are used to being in control and are fearful that they have none when it comes to pain in childbirth. In my opinion, control is a function of knowledge and together with your readings (but not googling at random!) and discussions with your healthcare provider team you will feel in charge. It is important for you and your healthcare provider team to have a “shared mental model”. This means that all of you agree on a common goal: a healthy baby with a healthy and happy mom.