Pain Relief in Childbirth

The options are endless, the opinions often harsh, and for many first time expectant parents the choices are terrifying. So the intention of this blog is to ease the pressure and scope out the whole continuum. Pain management in childbirth is a highly controversial topic, which I am yet to find a person who doesn’t have an opinion on. From the natural birth advocates who support drug free child birth, to the medical end which often advocates for interventions.

While I am a huge birth plan advocate, I do find myself asking… why the need to take a stance prior to understanding what the process is going to be like for you? Why must one decide what strategies they will employ or what drugs they will utilise prior to even knowing what the sensations are going to be like? Is it the stories of others that lead to this determination to take a predetermined stance? Or is it the unknown that terrifies us into taking every precaution?

Given that most of us don’t live in the outback nor are we planning on birthing in a field, why must these decisions be predetermined? Why can’t we leave them open?

As a women who has experience three very different births (caesarean; epidural supported VBAC; and drug free VBAC), I have to honestly report that my best birth was my last… informed, fearless, and drug free. My not so little man (9lb 13.5oz) was born in 105 minutes without any drugs. It was an understanding and belief in my body and the process of birth that created this, not any super power, and certainly not a rigid birth plan. This birth did not have a specific “drug free” birth plan, it was “do not offer me any pain relief, if I want it I will ask for it”. I am an absolute believer that fear and pain are linked. If we are scared, our pain will be increased and in many ways manifested. For me, the strict decision to avoid all medicated pain relief would have added to my fear and thus increased my pain. So the knowing that it was there if I wanted it (not just in my whining moments, but a genuine decision for medical assistance) relieved a certain amount of my fear and therefore my pain.

So my question becomes, why must we take absolute positions prior to knowing the territory? Why can’t we understand the continuum and allow ourselves to move along it as needed? Why are expectant couples deciding on epidurals, when they haven’t yet considered heat, massage, shower/bath, gas, pethidine etc. Why are we deciding on stage 8, before we have reached stage 2?

Birth preferences are most certainly needed, however a flexible approach to birth (especially your first one) is most certainly required.

My experience is spoken as a birthing mother, a doula (birth attendant), but also as a therapist who supports many post natal mothers who are struggling with their failures during birth. Failures which are judged by others, and it reference to rigid expectations of themselves. Ultimately we all go into birth with the aim of producing a healthy baby, we are not there to prove our women-hood, nor to out-do anyone else; so please avoid rigid plans that are derived out of aspirations rather than experience. It is important to avoid making decision for yourself that are a response to the stories you have heard from others. This is the beginning of your journey as a parent, ignore the advice of others, and trust the wisdom of yourself.


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