Pain in Childbirth
Why is there Pain in childbirth?
The pain a woman experiences during childbirth is created by a dynamic of three individual yet related causes of pain. Each cause will create pain on its own, however it is the relationship between these causes that can create an overwhelming and dissatisfying experience for the woman in labor.
Physical Sources of Pain
The first and most straightforward cause of pain in childbirth would be due to physical sources of pain. The extent to which these discomforts overwhelm the mother will depend on her sensitivity in the tissues involved, her overall health and the position of the baby. The mother can work to positively influence some of these factors, but there are many she cannot control. Her uterus must contract, her cervix must dilate.
The second cause of pain is poor body mechanics. Athletes learn quickly there is a right way, and a wrong way to move. The right way is by only using the muscles necessary for the task, and keeping the other body muscles relaxed. For example, a jog around the block can be made exceedingly difficult by tensing your upper body. By over contracting the muscles of your neck, arms, back or chest and abdomen you find the running gets harder. You will feel tired more quickly than if your body was not tensed. If you can actively relax the unnecessary muscles, you will free up more energy to use your working muscles.
Another body mechanics issue is posture and positioning. Every position you put your body in changes the pressure points of every part of your body. Selecting positions that minimize external pressure on the uterus, back and pelvic floor allow the process of labor to proceed more smoothly. There are some positions which minimize discomfort during labor, and others that increase discomfort. In addition, there are some positions which improve the effectiveness of labor, and some that hinder effective laboring.
The third cause of pain is your body's natural response to stress. As part of the normal stress response, uterine contractions are decreased and available oxygen for the uterus and baby are also decreased. Dr. Dick-Read first theorized about the effects of fear and stress on labor as the Fear Tension Pain Cycle. The basic premise is a woman's fear increases her anxiety and muscular tension which increases the pain she feels. The increase in pain then increases her fear with increases her anxiety and muscular tension further increasing her pain. They cycle continues until the woman is able to stop it.
What can be done about pain in childbirth?
Because the three causes of pain interact during labor, an effective natural pain management strategy will address all three causes of pain. First, you must minimize your potential physical causes of pain by proper nutrition, exercise and managing any health problems you may have. In addition, you should learn comfort measures to help you manage the physical discomforts you experience. Secondly, you must learn proper positioning techniques to help you lessen the influence of bad body mechanics, preventing unnecessary pain. Third, you will need to work through your fears about labor before it begins. You should also be ready to use various relaxation techniques to help you prevent anxiety during labor.