Updated: Feb 16, 2022
As a doula, the most common questions I get are about pain in labor. Everyone is obsessed with the pain of labor. And I understand why. We are constantly taught how painful labor is, and how scary that is.
We're constantly told we're not strong or tough enough to handle the pain.
Labor pains are women's punishment for the Garden of Eden. And that's that.
We talk about "how bad contractions hurt" and whether or not they are as painful or more painful than periods.
We talk about the sheer misery of back labor and if there is any way to prevent or help back labor.
People tell us we will be begging for an epidural and might as well just get pain meds as soon as possible.
But what this means is we are completely obsessed with pain in labor. Most women choose an epidural because they're afraid of pain in labor.
They never consider that the epidural might not work, or in some cases the epidural might intensify their pain.
Some women opt out of epidurals for pain relief, but spend a ton of time learning alternative pain management techniques including hypnosis, water therapy, labor positioning, massage, TENS units, and more. But what if I told you that all this obsession over pain relief in labor is actually intensifying your pain experience....
You can not control pain... when you try to, it's a sign that pain is controlling you. And that's exactly what happens. This doesn't mean that pain meds and epidurals can not be used as tools in certain situations, please don't misunderstand my point. The point is: fear of pain during labor is in the driver's seat for most of us. And it shouldn't be.
Some people see photos and videos of women calmly and peacefully bringing forth life, and use this to sell an idea of Pain Free Birth. Others see images of women roaring and grimacing as they bring forth life, and it scares the ever living crap out of them. What if instead of avoiding pain, we learn to understand pain, reframe pain, and allow it to be part of our unique experience?
Hear me out...
I'm not some kind of pain junkie. I'm not saying you should celebrate pain and embrace it. I'm not saying that there is no space for comfort measures in labor (in fact my Birthing With Confidence class has a whole module on it, and when I work with parents one on one, we spend some serious time discussing and practicing comfort measures!) But we also spend a lot of time talking about pain in a new way.
First we will talk about what pain means. What is pain? What is the worst pain you've ever experienced? I bet you'll give me some story about the time you broke your ankle and walked on it for a week or something... but I'll bet the more we talk, the most painful thing you ever experienced wasn't physical... It was probably emotional. See, the pain associated with childbirth is not isolated to physical sensation. It is a fully being experience, meaning mental perception and emotional perception of pain is equally as meaningful and physical perception. When you start to understand pain as communication, and a tool that can be used for your benefit, you might not be as afraid of it. When you start to understand that a quiet birth does not mean painless birth, and that expressive birth does not equate to excruciating pain, you might not be as afraid of it. After we develop a true understanding of pain, then we can better decide which approach we will use to find comfort during labor, to understand our limits, and to set ourselves up for a more positive birth.
If you're ready to replace your fears in birth with true confidence, join me to learn about the Three Pillars of Confidence and how understanding birth from a new perspective will help you overcome all of your fears; yes even your fear of pain in childbirth.
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