Sunday, July 19, 2009

Feeling the pain of childbirth

I had to laugh the other day. One of my favorite midwifery authors and researchers, Dr Denis Walsh has got himself into hot water.

Suck it up!
The world press has latched onto something Denis has said - essentially that us women should 'suck it up', and get on and 'grin and bear it' when we give birth. Suffice to say, this has drawn mixed reactions from women not least because he is a man and has no right to tell us girls what we should or should not put up with in terms of pain in childbirth.

Rite of passage
I haven't been able to access the original article so I am unable to make a judgment about what he said. However, I totally agree that childbirth is a rite of passage that has been heavily medicalised to the detriment of women and their experiences of motherhood.

However, I also think that we have forced women into very unnatural birthing environments and subject them to procedures that make childbirth far more painful than it would be in more natural environments. Is it any wonder that women request epidurals when we do things like induce their labour, give them drugs to force their uterus to contract and make them spend their whole labour lying flat on their backs?!

Supporting women in labour
What midwives need to be doing is looking for ways that they can support women so that women do not need to resort to epidurals to control the pain of childbirth.

Have a listen to what he says here. What do you think about Denis's comments?

As for poor old was years before I realised he was a man - I always thought he was "Denise"!

Image: 'The moment of birth' salimfadhley


hbacmama said...

Got a doctor (Obstetrician works well in this space too).

I have been incredibly lucky as a doula. I had the opportunity to support women in many different birth situations. Homebirth, homebirth after cesarean, hospital birth with pain relief, hospital birth without pain relief, planned cesareans and not so planned cesareans.
Yes, the right of passage has been altered. As a person in North America, I'm watching the interventions and surgeries skyrocket without any big dent in maternal/foetal outcomes for the better.
My dear friend when I was taking my doula training told me
"you have to be my doula (midwife attented hbac)! You can tell me to suck it up Princess, it is supposed to hurt".

I never told her to suck it up in either of her births I was privilaged to attend.
It did hurt, but a friend to walk the house/halls and rub her back and do pressure on her hips... that might make 'sucking it up' a bit less of a rolling boil in a pot of water?!
I think Denis rocks.

Pam said...

I read a brilliant post on this issue
At stand and deliver blog.

We all can recognise the fact that this made headlines because he is male and he doesn't say anything new at all.
Also I was tweeting yesterday (as usual) and came across a tweet telling me to follow this person because his wife was about to give birth. I followed it up and found the woman hd reached 7cm and the husband (a neuro surgeon) was boasting about how he had persuaded her at 7cm to have an epidural.
Now we all know at 7cm the bulk of the hard work is done transition most intense process is not that far away she was probably moving into this very extremely intense phase and he couldn't take it any longer.
It isn't just a midwifery issue or obstetrician issue it is a partner/husband issue

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you both for your views and perspectives.

The person who changed my view on pain is Nicky Leap - I would recommend you read any of her work on pain in labour: