Mothers who opt for pain relieving epidurals during labour are missing out on the benefits brought by the pain of giving birth, so says senior male midwife, Dr Denis Walsh.
Childbirth may be painful but this pain can strengthen a mother’s bond with her baby and prepare her for the demands of motherhood, advises Dr Walsh in the journal, Evidence Based Midwifery.
“A large number of women want to avoid pain, but more should be prepared to withstand it,” claims Dr Walsh. “Pain in labour is a purposeful, useful thing which has a number of benefits, such as preparing a mother for the responsibility of nurturing a newborn baby.”
Dr Walsh, associate professor in midwifery at Nottingham University, also says the pain of labour helps establish a rhythm in childbirth and triggers endorphins which help women adjust to pain.
He criticised the epidural epidemic and said that maternity units should embrace a “working with pain” approach to childbirth by encouraging alternative pain relief such as yoga, hypnosis and birthing pools.
Cathy Warwick, general secretary of The Royal College of Midwives, agrees that other methods of pain relief should be ready available to women. “At the moment it is very easy for most women to ask for an epidural, and if they want one they should definitely get one,” she says. “But what Dr Walsh is saying is that we want to make sure that women get other options, and that they do get really good support form midwives.”
MFM mums tell us what you think! Is it a man’s place to say women should put up with the pain of childbirth or, since the use of epidurals has doubled in 20 years, does he have a point?
Read our debate on whether to embrace the pain or the pain relief.