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Pregnancy Guide Update – Managing Labor Pain

The amount of pain a woman experiences in childbirth depends partly on the size of her pelvis and the size and position of her baby, and partly on her emotions.  A positive outlook, confidence in her body, personal support, and managing fear of the unknown all build coping capacity. 

So Beginnings Pregnancy Guide aims to build a mother’s trust in her body, to support her in gathering and preparing her best supporters, and to inform her of her options and her rights. It presents birth as a normal healthy, sacred family event to be supported, and seeks to balance the clinical view of birth as a potential medical emergency to be managed. 

Emergencies do happen in birth, and they are the exception. They should be discussed and treated as exceptions. It can be a challenge for a woman to maintain her personal power and sense of self in the high-tech, high-alert atmosphere of a hospital “delivery room”, especially as the rigors of childbirth gain full intensity.  Beginnings Pregnancy Guide says “Pain relief is your choice” (page 74). One anesthesiologist reviewer said flatly, “No, it isn’t.”  He was certain the choice is his.  I disagreed then, and still do.  The anesthesiologist clearly has expertise that needs to come in to play, especially in an emergency.  But the body and the birth experience belong totally to the mother and her family. And birthing pain in is not like other pain – oh it hurts alright, but it is not a signal that something is wrong or broken or diseased. It is the body working exactly as intended in its highest function. Women’s bodies and minds are engineered for this work.  It is disempowering to underestimate a mother by assuming she is too fragile or weak to cope with normal birth.  

The Pregnancy Guide suggests natural pain relief measures and presents a balanced view of common pain relieving drugs. According to the latest scientific reports, epidural is still the most common form of pain relief.  Side effects are unchanged.  Reliable sources taking a purely medical view often present side effects as “minor”– as if it makes no difference if the mother is nauseous, drowsy, itchy, unable to focus, and unable to get out of bed during the birth of her child.  The catheter for drug administration, the catheter necessitated by her inability to get up to go to the bathroom, the monitors  inside her clipped to the baby’s head , the blood pressure monitor, the IV for fluids – all these are rarely mentioned, but surely add to a sense of danger and loss of control. Who can do her best work and find her mental strength in the face of such distractions?  I’m still wondering, why are these side effects, and other major potential problems for both mother and baby considered better than normal birthing pain?    

No text changes are needed for the Pregnancy Guide to adhere to current professional guidelines and the latest scientific evidence. 

More than ever,  a woman needs plenty of reflective conversation to recognize her strengths and supports, discuss her fears, understand her options, articulate her preferences, and retain her personal power in order to find her power and experience her glory in giving birth.  You can use the content on pages 69 to 75 to guide those conversations.  The goal is to shift her thinking from fear of what she does not want (pain) to choice of what she does want from her birth experience.  And then identify baby steps she can take to set up that kind of experience.
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