Labour is hard work, there is no two ways about it. Even the name of it ‘labour’ tells us that, it is hard physical work. When the work to be done requires so much mental concentration that brainwaves slow down from active Beta to distracted Alpha to turn the focus inwards then labour has truly begun.
In my work, as a doula and childbirth educator, I’ve come across lots of different lists of how to reduce labour pain or how to have an easy / gentle / relaxed / orgasmic birth. So many good suggestions and yet I wondered what it would be like to write a list that showed how to increase pain.
Why would I do that?
In short I like to know my options. One of my favourite quotes is by Diana Korte “If I don’t know my options, I don’t have any.” (Actually I’m a bit of a quote fanatic which you’ll see if you pop by my quote-tastic page: birth quotes) And I seem to be one of those people who when faced with a lots of different lists about lots of different things can feel a little overwhelmed about where to start. In my experience I’ve found that by knowing what I don’t want, is often the first step towards finding out what I do want. Pain in childbirth is a contentious issue in that it is often misunderstood; labour pain is not like a physical pain telling us that something is broken. The strong sensations are intense. Talking about pain often brings up the issue of the use of pain medication. On one hand, medication is used systematically in a convey-belt birthing system that does not appreciate the potential long-term effect it may have upon bonding and breastfeeding, as well as the immediate effect it has upon the hormonal system of mother and baby in the labour and birth process. This gives pain medication a bad name. On the other hand pain medication can relieve suffering and prevent loss of life, when used compassionately.
I assume that pain in childbirth is not what any of us want or desire, for ourselves, the women we work with or any woman on earth. I write from a place of humbled awe and respect that the human body has within its incredible capabilities that capacity to conceive, grow, birth and sustain life. The labour dance is one of the most incredible things I have experienced in this lifetime, pushing me to the limits of what I thought capable. And in the words of Patrick Overton, “When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, FAITH is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”
There are two causes of pain in childbirth: Physical & Psychological
The amount of physical discomfort and pain depends, to some extent, on the individual woman’s sensitivity to physical sensations felt within her body. The psychological causes of pain in childbirth are complex and demonstrate the close connection between mind and body. In brief the fear of pain actually has the power to cause pain! Penny Simkin talks about the difference between pain in childbirth, and suffering in childbirth (1). She talks about suffering as an emotional reaction to feeling out of control, and that can happen with or without physical pain. Women suffer in childbirth because they feel distressed, that their wishes are not being respected and suffering can become traumatic due to how an event is perceived.
Without further ado here is my list of:
Eight ways to increase pain in labour! (may it assist you in finding your path towards a birth free from suffering)
• Tense up – tension increases pain
• Pay lots of attention to every contraction right from the beginning – this will waste energy.
• Do not sleep or rest – staying continually physically active is exhausting
• Do not eat or drink – this will also wear you out as you dehydrate and starve
• Do not use the toilet – having a full bladder / colon will act as a physical barrier that your baby will have trouble getting past
• Worry a lot about how you look / sound / are performing – being self-consciously aware of other people’s opinion is a great way to slow labour down
• Do not make any sounds or do anything strange – what would people think!
• Lie on your back – gravity will make it harder for your uterine muscles to push baby down and out
I’d love to hear what you think about this issue. What do you think about increasing pain in childbirth? Anything I’ve missed out? Let me know in the comments below…
Hatching the Universal Egg by Sandie Abel
The Crowning by Judy Chicago
Earth Birth by Jacquelin Moore Alexander
- ‘Pain, Suffering, and Trauma in Labor and Subsequent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: First of Two Posts by Penny Simkin, PT, CCE, CD(DONA)’ from The Journal of Perinatal Education. Summer 2011 Volume 20, Number 3. also to be found online at http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/pain-suffering-and-trauma-in-labor-and-subsequent-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-first-of-two-posts-by-penny-simkin-pt-cce-cddona/
To find out more about the birth process read my book: A Birth Path, stages & states of consciousness
Or if you’re pregnant and interested in reducing pain through promoting relaxation – join one of my Pregnancy Circles held weekly in a cosy yurt in the woods near Exeter, Devon. Where we focus on holding sacred space for the transition into motherhood.