One of the main issues many women struggle with is the thought of a painful birth… probably no surprise really – who hasn’t seen one born every minute? It’s got to be one of the biggest fears.
Yet for many women, what we actually hear is other things that were more painful than childbirth – one woman I worked with swore that cracked nipples whilst breastfeeding was worse than the contractions, another one I spoke to said that the sensation of an episiotomy was worse than childbirth itself, and others bring up a whole host of other things that were more painful.
For many many many women, childbirth itself is NOT the most painful thing that’s ever happened to them. And it’s short lived – we are talking a few hours… literally…. yes, even if it’s 24 hours or you have had prodromal labour for a few days – in your whole life, it’s literally a few hours.
What we also know is that pain goes up, when women are fearful or unsure – the Fear, Tension, Pain cycle as presented in the famous book – Childbirth without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read. And with that comes longer, more painful and difficult births.
Tools and techniques such as breathing, hypnobirthing, EFT, mindfulness and other tools are all helping to support women to relax, trust their bodies, and go inside their bodies to birth.
We know when women are relaxed, undisturbed, they feel safe, warm, unobserved, that all the right hormones for birth appear to help them manage the pain – primarily oxytocin and endorphins. And these are needed at the time of birth to help mum bond with her baby.
So what worries a women?
When we stress a woman in labour by talking to her, by making her think, by worrying her… all the good hormones disappear, her fears may appear, adrenaline kicks in and her pain threshold is lowered – often meaning a more painful, longer and tougher labour.
She’s instinctively worried that’s something wrong with her or her baby – so excessive monitoring can be something that worries her – is everything ok? Loud noises, being asked lots of questions, having people fuss her, is she progressing ok etc.
Sometimes the best thing we can do as a birth partner or doula, is sit in silence, not fussing mum, letting her go into herself, allowing the right hormones to support her and reduce the pain and letting her know we’re here for if she needs us.
If we see that she is struggling, the first thing to do is to calm her down using her breath – I normally suggest an inward count of 4 and an outward count of 6 and I breath and ask her to mimic me until I feel she’s relaxed again. And re-assure her that her baby is coming and with each contraction, another one is gone and it’s one step closer.
Painless childbirth? Really?
There are many women who have completely painless childbirth experiences – I know of quite a few that have found it painless – yes really – yet they are the ones who are worried with telling others in case they are perceived to ‘gloat’. And of course there are women that are reporting orgasmic births too. Yes!
That’s one of the issues in our society is we feel inclined to tell all the negative stories, yet the positive stories, we are concerned to share with views of how we will be perceived – maybe we’re showing off/maybe no one will believe me etc.
There are always times that pain relief is needed – I’ve seen some incredible women manage strong contractions through induction without pain relief (not even gas and air) and I’ve seen others who after gruelling labours have needed epidurals. I’m often relieved at those times that they’ve chosen that option as I’ve seen them try everything else – and it’s such an internal battle with themselves. There is never a right or wrong way to manage your birth and no one should ever judge.
So how can I have a painless natural childbirth?
The truth is that you’re probably unlikely to have a totally painless childbirth experience – just like if you were running a marathon it would be unlikely to be painless. Where you are on the spectrum of pain depends on a number of things – how calm you are, how well supported you are, if you have the right environment and if you’ve worked on your mindset.
If, however, you believe that birth is going to be painful, and you’re fearful of that pain… then you need to employ tools and techniques to help you reduce those fears and worries. And consider hiring a doula (also known to reduce pain)…..
Much love, Tricia xx