Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Painless Childbirth, revisited

Lately, my Understanding "Painless" Childbirth post has gotten a lot of attention. I'm so glad, because much of what is in it is so important for women to know. I have gotten a few comments from women who experienced painless childbirth without hypnosis. I think these stories are awesome and they fit right in with the ideology that birth doesn't have to be painful. Here is one of the comments, explaining the various degrees of comfort for her five births.
[. . . ]I experienced almost painless childbirth with and without drugs and never used hypnosis. I think it is different for everyone..[. . . ]In five births, number one and two were painless with drugs. Number three was painful. Number four was not painful until the last ten seconds and number five was painless

I just started focusing on reassuring the baby and the surges never got painful with four and five. The crowning was not painful on number three and number five.

The contractions hurt on number three (possibly because I was panting to keep the baby in on the dash to the hospital.)

Notice her theory that fighting against what her body wanted to do in order to get to the hospital before giving birth may have caused more pain that was necessary. I have been meaning to write about why I feel my second birth became uncomfortable during second stage, after I was almost completely comfortable for first stage, including transition.

My birth plan said "limit vaginal exams to those I request, unless necessary for a medical decision." This request was ignored soon after my OB started to tell I was getting pushy. She had me get into a good position to be checked (big mistake #1 was getting into that position in the first place, big mistake #2 was not getting out of it) and when I was found to have just a lip of cervix left, she continued to check periodically without saying anything. I didn't really mind much at the time since I was really focused on relaxing through the waves, but I do understand why some women feel violated by things like that. I had read about the flaws of the rule of 10 and wanted to be able to push a little if I felt like it even though I was not "10 centimeters." At first, my OB's advice supported this, and she encouraged me to push only as much as I felt I had to. The waves felt different and I began to vocalize through them, because it felt better to, but I was still using my hypnosis and staying comfortable. I don't know how much time passed, but she must have gotten impatient, so she wanted to try holding back the lip of cervix and having me push, which was extremely uncomfortable.

All of you who work with birthing women, this is important, during birthing, our brains sometimes don't clearly interpret what you mean when you say things to us. When trying to hold back the lip of cervix didn't make it go away, my OB told me to try not to push, though I think now she must have meant to only push as much as I had to, but in my confused birth-brain, I read it as "don't push at all" which was very different from what my body was telling me to do, and I think greatly increased the discomfort and, I dare say, pain that I experienced. It is likely that the fighting my body and the confusion caused the pain, not necessarily the pressure waves. When she started telling me I could push, obviously that implied the lip was gone, but again, I had birth-brain. This (and not getting out of that bed) is why I think I ended up needing to be coached to push him out. Once I started really pushing, it wasn't really painful anymore. Crowning didn't really hurt to me either, just felt like really intense stinging.

Here is another comment from a woman who experienced a painless birth:
I had a painless birth with my fifth baby. It was so painless that I didn't realize it was real until he was crowing. (Luckily my husband recognized subtle changes in my mood and called the midwife, who arrived just in time.)

I did not do hypnosis. I just practiced relaxing my perineum with each braxton hicks. When I was lying in bed, in active labor, I thought I was having BH contractions so I just kept relaxing my perineum.

It didn't even hurt when he was crowning. I tore a little and that stung but not bad at all.

For the record: My son was 10lb 6oz and I have a ridiculously low pain threshold
That is pretty amazing. Her comments illustrate beautifully that women do not have to have an unusually strong ability to endure pain to have enjoyable natural birth experiences--it is not an issue of how much pain you can take, but how you choose to think about the sensation you're experiencing.

In both this story and the previous, the moms did not have the painless experience until they had already been through birth before. These women have probably found a solution to the fear problem by experiencing birth. Since they have done it before, they don't need to fear the unknown. Thinking you're not really in labor would probably reduce the fear, too.

Here is another one, from a midwife
[. . .] I had painless childbirth with all my babies. I think it was because I did unassisted births and no one talked to me or touched me while in active labor. I was able to go into the zone and time seemed to stand still. But every time I looked at the clock an hour had gone by. When it was over I felt like I had just had the best sex ever. I was 17 and had a 5 and 1/2 hour labor with my first.
As a midwife, I try to allow my moms to go to that zone, but I also have to listen to the baby, give drinks of water, etc. I tell my apprentices not to talk to her, just support as they see a need and be aware of the mom's response.
I have discussed unassisted birth before. I do think that women are likely to have more comfortable birth experiences if they can be undisturbed. Undisturbed birth does not necessarily have to be unattended. If a doctor or midwife can act as a lifeguard, then a "best of both worlds" birth is possible. The benefits being able to stay focused and follow your instincts while still having a knowledgeable expert available to step in if they are needed. This appears to be how this midwife practices and teaches her apprentices to practice.


  1. This is a great assortment of stories! Thanks for gathering and sharing. :) I think it is great when moms can have comfortable births.

  2. thanks for the information.Painless delivery is not so possible.Not every woman will have a pain free birth but when they take an active role in mentally preparing themselves for a good birth, their body and mind will respond appropriately. They may feel what is considered pain by others but I belive that women learn to "deal" with it in the sense that they feel the discomfort is not as bad as they thought it would be. I have also heard that they learn to "turn down the volume" of the discomfort and focus their attention elsewhere so that the stimulus of the contraction is tolearable.