Does Childbirth Have to be Painful?

January 9, 2010

Here is an excerpt from a great article about the nature and cause of pain during birth. The full article lists suggestions for how to approach labor in order to remain comfortable and relaxed throughout.

Many people expect contractions to be painful. What are contractions, anyway?

Clench your fist and tighten the muscle of your arm. Continue to hold the muscle in a tensed position. Notice how it feels. It feels hard, and the longer you hold it the more you can feel the muscle become fatigued. It may even shake a little. But there is no pain, unles you continue to hold it past the point that the muscle can function. There are resting periods in between the contractions so that your muscles do not get fatigued and start to hurt.

Uterine contractions are no different than this. There is no reason for them to be painful. Each time the uterine muscle contracts, it becomes shorter, exerting downward pressure on the baby. Picture in your mind what it is like to pull a turtleneck sweater over your head. You push through the opening with your head while pulling down on your sweater with your hands. It is a dual action. Contractions push the baby down through the cervix while pulling the cervix up to widen the opening. Some believe that as the uterus pushes down, the baby exerts counterpressure with his/her feet which also helps to push the baby out. The contractions of the uterus exert a huge but very gentle pressure.

Tighten the muscle of that arm again. Keep it tightened. Hold it there……

If you hold it long enough, the muscle will start to hurt. It produces pain. What is causing the pain?

The muscle is exhausted. Keeping it tightened not only tires out the muscle, but it does not allow the muscle to empty itself of waste products and replenish the supply of nutrients it needs in order to continue. This is the reason some women feel pain during contractions. Either they have not had proper nutrition during pregnancy so their uterine muscle is not well nourished, they have not been getting the proper rest, not drinking enough water so that waste products can be carried away, their labor is long and they have not been keeping their energy level up by drinking nourishing liquids and light, easily digestible foods during labor, or they have received a Pitocin drip designed to speed up their contractions, and their uterus does not have a chance to rest. Not only is this painful, but dangerous as well. A uterus that cannot push a baby out is likely to need a cesarean section, or at the very least, forceps or vacuum extractions. It is no wonder that so many cesareans are performed in hospitals today – women are often not being allowed to eat and drink during labor as they should, and there are a questionable number of induced labors being done which result in exhausted uteri. […]

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