Anticipating the Pain of Childbirth: How Bad is it, Really?

Photography via iStockPhoto

Happily for me (or perhaps naively of me), I don’t have any anxiety about labour or delivery. I know it will hurt, and I know it will hurt more than anything has hurt me before. But for some reason, I’m not nervous about that. Maybe because I hopped on the epidural train long ago. Maybe because I’m just curious more than fearful (how painful is it, REALLY?). And trust me when I say I’m not one of those people who has a high tolerance for pain. I don’t enjoy pain. I’m just not scared of this particular kind of pain.

My prenatal class instructor spoke a lot recently about “re-framing” the pain. She talked about the fact that we have been brought up to associate pain with negative experiences, but that childbirth is one time when pain is associated with positivity: each contraction brings you closer to meeting your baby and serves a very definite purpose.

A dear friend—who had a 50-hour labour, might I add, and 44 of those hours went by without drugs of any kind—also shared a statistic with me recently: when I go into labour, no fewer than 350,000 women around the world will also be in labour at that moment. She suggested that I could think about that and channel the collective energy of all of these women to help me manage the pain.

Other friends have offered various techniques that worked for them—”Gravol before active labour to get some sleep!” “In the earliest stages—a glass of wine and Tylenol!” “Hypno-birthing!” “Yoga and deep breathing!” “An epidural! Period!”

I’ll take all of the advice you have to give, too. What helped you manage the pain of labour? And was the pain what you expected? Was it worse or better?

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