Rethinking Pain in Labour & Birth

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I wrote a blog post last month all about the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle in labour, and how it’s really important not to fear birth - as that can make your labour more painful and potentially longer too. You can read all about the fear-tension-pain cycle of labour here - do read it, it’s so important to know (we talk about this more on my Hypnobirthing & Birth Preparation courses)

So I wanted to do a short blog post to follow up to that, and to explain how ‘pain’ in labour is completely different than other types of pain. And how if you can think about it in a different way this can really help you to manage the sensations of labour and birth. So read on:

Pain in labour is not sudden, unexpected, unexplained, or uncertain. It’s not the same pain as when you have broken your leg, or have tooth ache - it’s not that something is ‘wrong’. It is pain with a purpose - if indeed you do experience it as pain. I know many women from my Hypnobrirthing courses who have described the sensations in their body as ‘strong’, ‘challenging’ , ‘uncomfortable’, ‘intense’ - but not actually ‘painful’. Which can be really reassuring to hear when you are pregnant. The media and our cultural expectations are that birth is painful, and must ‘be endured’ - so we are pre-programmed to see labour and birth as a negative thing, not a positive and empowering experience that is bringing our baby out into the world. If you can start to trust your amazing body, if you understand what is actually going in the process of birth then you will not be fearful of birth (that’s why we cover ALL of this in detail on my Hypnobirthing courses) and you will understand why birth does not have to be painful - see that previous blog post too.

Lets ‘reframe’ pain expectations of child birth

Reframing our expectations can really help. Reframing is a psychological technique where you look at the same experience through a different lens or 'frame', in order to transform the experience from negative to positive. It's used by lots of professionals from top sports people, actors and business people to celebrities to change and challenge the way they think. So with pregnancy and birth, it's all about challenging what you *thought* you knew to be true (from films, the media, family, other peoples birth stories etc) and looking at it in a completely different way. You can use cognitive reframing (its full name) in different ways such as:

- To challenge your assumptions.

Take something you thought you knew about birth and ask 'why do I think this?'. For example you may have thought that birth is 'the worst pain you can imagine'. So ask yourself, what evidence do you have for this and how do you know it will be true for you. Then reframe it: 'birth will contain interesting and strong sensations, I have no idea what they will be like for me until I get there. But I know they are bringing me closed to meeting my baby.'

- Ask what is good about this?

So in labour a surge (contraction) may feel tough, but ask yourself - "what is good about this?". Which parts of your body do not hurt at all? What happens if you focus on them instead? Does it feel at all interesting, fizzy or sensual? Do you feel energised afterwards?

- Use different words.

Lots of words around labour and birth are quite negative, and we talk about this on my course. By using more positive language you might be able to change your expectations. You can call a contraction a rush, a surge (my favourite, but yours may be different), a glow, a wave. Are you dilating or opening, expanding, unfolding? Find words that feel positive and powerful for YOU.
You'll learn more about all this of course on my Hypnobirthing & Birth Preparation courses (group and private). So do contact me if you want to know more, or head over to the ‘courses’ part of the For Modern Mothers website.

The PAIN acronym for labour and birth

Even with all this knowledge and preparation, some women do describe the sensations of labour and birth as painful. Nothing on the planet (sadly) can guarantee that you will not experience it this way. But you can do all you can to prepare to put yourself in the best possible mental place to have a really positive and empowering experience.

So we can also look at the sensations of childbirth in this way, we know that this particular pain is:

~ Purposeful

We know that the sensations we feel during childbirth have a purpose. Each surge helps to bring our baby out.

~ Anticipated

We know that we will be feeling new sensations and waves of surges during childbirth, so we can prepare ourselves to cope with them without fear.

~ Intermittent

We know that there are breaks between surges. We also know that the breaks last longer than the surges, so we can take comfort in knowing that they will pass and we will have a chance to rest.

~ Normal

We know that the sensations of childbirth are normal and nothing to fear. It is all part of the process that will bring our baby into the world.

I really hope that helps you to understand labour and birth a little bit more, as knowledge really is power when it comes to the birth of your baby. Do let me know if you want any more information on this, and to prepare yourself FULLY for the birth of your baby please do check out my Hypnonobirthing & Birth Preparation courses. For a confident, positive and calm birth.

Susan xx