As I’ve been preparing this week for Monday’s Pregnancy Coaching Call, I have been doing a lot of reading and reflection on the topic of pain in labor. We will be discussing some of the theories about pain that attempt to explain why pain can be interpreted so differently by different people. How is it possible that some women experience labor as virtually pain-free, while others find the pain completely debilitating?
The answer is that there is much more to pain than the physical experience.
Our perceptions of the pain play a huge role in how we experience pain and whether that translates into suffering for us. Penny Simkin illustrates this principle by discussing an exercise workout. She suggests that even though we may experience some discomfort during a workout, we associate it with improved physical conditioning, view it in a positive way, and that experience (despite the pain), becomes a positive one for us.
When I came across this example, I immediately thought of a client of mine who was faced with a potential Pitocin augmentation in labor after her water was broken. She was walking and hoping to get labor going by natural means, as she was highly motivated to avoid Pitocin (after experiencing it with a previous birth). When her contractions finally kicked in naturally, she was THRILLED. She welcomed each contraction and was just so happy to be in labor. The way she coped with labor was truly amazing. Her husband later asked her if it even hurt because she made it look so easy. No doubt her contractions were intense – she went from less than 2 cm to baby in her arms in less than 4 hours. I can’t help but think her perspective greatly impacted the way she coped with her labor.
There is still a lot that we don’t know about pain in labor, but I am convinced that what goes on in our minds is at least as important as what goes on with our bodies.
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Photo by Pixomar