If you’re a pregnant mom, and you’re starting the journey of figuring out what kind of birth you want to have, this is a very good page to read.
It’s a summary of evidence, from many sources, about pain relief in labor. There is a lot of information here, but for my money, it’s the wisdom, barely hiding between the lines on this page, that’s really compelling.
To give just one example–check out this sentence:
“The factor that best predicts a woman’s experience of labor pain is her level of confidence in her ability to cope with labor (Lowe 2002).”
Dig that? In other words, how much it hurts depends less on…
–the baby’s position
–how good your partner is at doing the double hip squeeze
…than it depends on how well you think you’ll be able to handle it.
So, if you’re pregnant and you’re telling yourself “I can’t do this,” you may be setting yourself up for a painful labor. Women have different ways of framing that statement. “I have a low pain threshold.” “My friend had a baby and said it was incredibly painful.” “I once tore my ACL and couldn’t handle the pain.” All of those suggest that the discomfort of childbirth will be impossible to cope with.
The good news: The force is with you. Can you find the place in your mind where that self-doubt resides? Can you replace it with something more positive? “I am made to do this.” “I am a strong person and I have done many tough things in my life already.” “I am working my ass off to get ready for the challenge of labor.” When you carry ideas like that around in your head, you are creating the conditions that allow you to cope.
Pain is not something we can objectively measure in our bodies, like blood volume. It’s something we experience in our minds. And in our minds, we can believe that the pain is awful and overwhelming; or that it is intense, amazing and healthy. Which–after all–it is, when you remember that labor is a natural process, as normal as a sneeze (though a lot more memorable).
Fear makes pain worse, and our culture gives us tons of fear about labor. So it does take work to counteract that message in your own mind. It takes repetition; it takes bravado. “Hell yeah, I can do it!” Say that to yourself all the time. You can’t say it too much.
During pregnancy, a person can get very busy buying car seats and going to doctor’s appointments and doing her Kegels, but maybe the most important thing to do with that precious pre-baby time is this:
Tell yourself–over and over–that you can do it.