Image: Keeping Up With the Kardashians
Pain during labour and childbirth is a complex combination of physical and psychological factors. Pain comes from the uterus, cervix, pelvic joints and ligaments and, during the actual birth, from the vagina and perineum (the skin between the vagina and anus) stretching to accommodate the baby’s emerging body. But fear and tension make the pain much worse.
Mother Nature has not left us without assistance. As labour progresses, endorphins (natural drugs) begin to rise, making the pain easier to cope with, and time less relevant. Endorphins can make women feel a little spaced out and detached from their surroundings, making them disappear within themselves to a quiet space where they often find amazing strength.
Pain of labour is a central part of women’s experience of childbirth and the attitudes of midwives, doctors and support people can have a profound effect on the choices women make, their satisfaction with the birth and their memories of the process.
Watch: This is how the process of childbirth affects a woman’s bladder. (Post continues after video)
Pain as punishment
The Judea Christian concept of the pain of labour being Eve’s punishment for her sins in the garden of Eden dominated much of recent history. Genesis 3:16 in the Bible lists one of the judgments for Eve’s sin as pain in childbirth:
I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Feminists have roundly rejected the concept of labour being a necessary suffering for one’s sins and it has little place in modern thinking. Instead, we think the purpose of labour pain is evolutionary: it gets women to seek out a safe place to give birth, and draws support to her.