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Labour pain helps women prepare for motherhood … ?

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Dr Denis Walsh certainly seems to have stirred up something of a hornets nest with his comments about labour pain and the use of epidurals written in the Observer today
“A large number of women want to avoid pain. Some just don’t fancy the pain [of childbirth]. More women should be prepared to withstand pain,” he [said]. “Pain in labour is a purposeful, useful thing, which has quite a number of benefits, such as preparing a mother for the responsibility of nurturing a newborn baby.”

I personally don’t think anyone wants to endure pain but surely he is slightly missing the point. Labour pain is different from other pain and the management of it needs to be handled differently. There is a huge body of research that shows that women are less likely to require pain relief if given one-on-one midwifery care during labour, helped with alternative pain relief methods (e.g. TENS, birthing pools) and in a comfortable, safe feeling environment. Surely what Dr Walsh should be focused on is creating the right environment and support for women during the birthing process and not suggesting that pain is a good preparation for motherhood

What he also misses is that in many cases, men are asked to be the main birthing partner and have to endure seeing their life partner go through pain and discomfort – evidence suggests that in these cases the men are more likely to push for an epidural so that they can take that pain away. For us, seeing me go through pain was the hardest part for Mr MAM. We were lucky, I had my daughter at home with a midwife in attendance all the time which meant that I had a trusted professional telling me I could do this thing, and he had the option to walk away to somewhere he felt comfortable when it all got too much for him – he would have been unlikely to have that space (either emotional or physical) if we had been in hospital.

Oh and all this does miss the point that Dr Walsh is male and therefore hasn’t got any actual experience of all of this …
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