Childbirth does it hurt?

I wanted to share another of my ‘whoever gave them money to study this’ stories. Apparently first time mothers’ expectations of a pain-and-drug-free labour differ markedly from the real event. I can practically hear you all falling over in shock, but Joanne Lally of Newcastle University felt it needed a proper study so she undertook a survey to find out what pregnant women think about childbirth before the event.

Preparation is the key, the more information a woman has the more realistic her expectations apparently, but even then it doesn’t always go to plan. It makes you wonder if any of the pregnant women she surveyed had ever talked to a woman who had actually given birth. Given that it is a kindness not to explain in graphic detail why labour is called that for a very good reason, and that whatever you plan for just does not always happen, you think they would have had a better idea of what to expect.

The study recommends that women are given the tools to prepare them for the possibility of their ideal birth plan not happening, but doesn’t appear to suggest that screaming blue murder at the partner involved and invoking the wrath of the gods if they ever come near them again as a method, but it’s certainly one I have seen employed on many an occasion.

The survey also revealed what women want from childbirth – don’t hold your breath here, it’s a real shocker. They want four things: to know what level and type of pain they are going to experience, pain relief, involvement in decision making, and control. On pain: the women wanted access to effective pain relief, no surprise there, and that the majority underestimate the intensity of the pain they will have – which no doubt accounts for the chorus of women screaming for epidurals who only wanted to breathe through the pain before they hit the final wave.

The biggest issue though is around control, and the study found that if women were consulted and had the processes explained to them then they felt more in control. No different from any other situation in life I would have thought, keeping people in the dark and making decisions without their involvement never goes down well in my book. The other big surprise apparently is that going to antenatal preparation classes are not enough to prepare women for the actual experience. A bit like reading an exercise manual and then discovering that doing the routine is a lot more sweaty and painful.

Good to know that someone, somewhere, is always asking the obvious question that most of us already know the answer to.