Cultural values and learned behaviors influence perception and response to acute pain. Women’s expectations about labor pain often are confirmed by their experience of childbirth.Click here to read more about Childbirth Expectations & Beliefs
The concept of painless childbirth is really a very simple one, but it can be difficult to explain to someone who does not already intuitively know of this.
Normal, physiological, complication-free childbirth is not painful.
Physically, some variations in presentation of the baby such as posterior lie can cause pain, alerting the mother to the problem. Pain is a signal from the body to change what you are doing. If your attention is focused on meeting some other need and not your body’s needs, a belly expansion (contraction) can very well be experienced as painful.
The body needs to be the one in control. There are thousands of years of primal instinct coded into the woman’s body. Her wildish self, her primal intuitive nature knows how to give birth, even though she consciously may not feel she does.
Humans are conscious, thinking beings. They also think too much.
If someone said to you “DON’T THINK ABOUT THE PINK ELEPHANT!” guess what you will find appearing in your stream of conscious thought? Yup. A pink elephant!
This is not about telling yourself what you believe, or what you are experiencing. This is not about saying “It doesn’t hurt. This is not painful” when you are feeling and experiencing pain and hurt. This is not about mind over matter, hypnosis bullshit. This is not about forcing yourself to not think about what is happening or to believe in something you don’t really believe in.
This is about knowing. If past experience of birth has been painful, this is what you KNOW. This is the difficult part – NO AMOUNT OF TELLING WILL MAKE IT OTHERWISE. So if it is your experience and your knowing that says “Childbirth hurts and is painful”, it won’t do you any good to argue with yourself in your head telling yourself “This does not hurt, This does not hurt, this does not HAVE to hurt” when you KNOW otherwise.
So how do you KNOW your way to a painless childbirth? This is why you are reading this isn’t it?
You already know, or rather your body does. The trick is to allow your body to be the driver of the birthing vehicle, without having your mind in the backseat, doing the driver’s job. This is trust. Trust in your body and your abilities. Trust that you know. Being able to trust that your body will take care of things and that you are just along for the ride.
There are different ways women seem to go about doing this.
Reprogramming Belief Structures
Your REAL deep-down beliefs need to be brought out into the open and examined closely because they may not be actually your beliefs but that of society’s. We have belief structures instilled in us from birth by our family, friends, society, culture and the media. We are essentially being taught what to believe, and where childbirth is concerned, we are taught to believe that childbirth is associated with pain and putting the woman in a position of needing expert assistance.
So what can we as midwives, childbirth educators, and women do to help all women make childbirth more pleasurable? We can start by changing our own beliefs about birth. We can free ourselves from the mechanistic view of life and embrace a new holistic philosophy which does not presume to put arbitrary limits upon women, the experience of giving birth, or life itself. We can stop telling women that “pain is a must” or “pain is the heart of labor” and tell them instead that “trust is a must” and “love is the heart of labor.” We can help women to embrace their sexuality and love their bodies without shame and without guilt. We can encourage them to listen to the voices within themselves for it is there that the answers will be found.
It may take us several generations before we will be able to free ourselves fully from the societally imposed fear, shame and guilt that keep many of us from allowing ourselves to experience pleasure in any area of our lives. But if we can at least present pleasurable childbirth as a possibility, we will all have something to work for, and someday, we are bound to achieve it.Laura Shanley
Some of the links on this page don’t work. I haven’t figured out which ones yet! Sorry!