Friday, May 28, 2010

Pain vs Suffering In Labor & Birth

In this video, Doula and author Penny Simkin contrasts the concepts of pain and suffering in labor and birth. When I teach prepared childbirth classes, I like to talk about how labor often involves "pain with a purpose." Pain in labor signals the mother that it is time to get to a safe place to birth. If the mother is open to the sensations of labor and tunes in to her body, the pain of labor can help to guide her in moving and assuming certain postures that facilitate the process of labor, helping the baby descend through her pelvis. Pain is purposeful.

Pain in labor can be anticipated. Since you know it is coming, you can plan your strategy by choosing your favorite coping techniques. Many women find that massage, movement, visualization, relaxation and hydrotherapy work very well. Experiment and find what works for you,

The pain of labor is intermittent. You have periods of relaxation between contractions. In active labor, there are about 15 minutes of contractions and 45 minutes of rest per hour. Maximizing the periods of rest are key to avoiding fatigue in labor.

And finally, pain in labor is completely normal. Because we think of pain as being associated with injury or illness, it can help to reframe the way be think about pain in labor. Birth is a normal physiological process of the female body. Nothing is wrong or abnormal. Just as there is some discomfort associated with running a marathon, so is there with giving birth. If we work with our body's signals and surrender to the process, we can prevent pain from turning into suffering.

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