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Why does labour hurt so f*cking much?

Whether you’ve given birth, you’re pregnant or you’re planning pregnancy, there’s no way to avoid the fact that ejecting a human from your body HURTS. But as much as the pain sucks, and as much as it may not feel like it… it’s actually a good thing.

Hear me out here. 

When we cheer on our favourite athletes, we yell out encouragement like:

“Come on!” 

“You can do it!” 

“Go harder!” 

“You’ve got this!” 

“Wooooooooooooooo!” 

But when it comes to pregnant women, it’s all: 

“Oh no, poor love.” 

“Childbirth, yikes. It was the worst pain of my life!” 

“OMG have the epidural, you don’t need to be a hero.” 

Athletes push their bodies to its limit just as much as pregnant women do, so why don’t we politely advise them, “Hey, you should anaesthetise yourself from the nipples down”? 

Because we believe in them. We invest in them. We want them to succeed. And when they do, we celebrate their achievements by throwing street parades. 

So, uh… where are the street parades at for our mothers? More importantly, where has our belief in women’s bodies and minds gone? 

Remember, there was a time when women had to give birth without pain management. (GASP!). Perhaps you’re wondering how the heck they did it. Fair question, but they DID IT, didn’t they? (Otherwise, the world would be severely underpopulated right now.)

To bring back faith in women’s ability to labour and birth, we need to change society’s views around pain in childbirth. 

Labour pain is good pain

When athletes are pushing themselves to win, they’re often in pain. Their bodies hurt, they question themselves, yet they push through. Are they psychopaths for enduring the pain? No, because the pain they’re experiencing is physiological, not pathological. There’s a difference – let me explain.

Have you ever held a wall squat and felt that burn in your thighs? Or have you done clams and felt like your bum was on fire? That’s physiological pain. It’s pain you can endure mentally because you know it’s doing good for your body. Physiological pain is experienced when the body is working hard to do something it’s programmed to do.

In labour, your uterus (which is a muscle) is contracting. It can help to understand that the pain you experience comes from this normal action of the muscle, not because of something bad. 

It’s meant to be painful

Physiological pain is very different to pathological pain. 

This is the pain that occurs when something happens to the body that’s not meant to. A bone breaks, a tooth gets pulled, you slice your hand with a knife. Pathological pain is a part of your body’s response to injury, its way of fixing something. 

Labour is meant to occur. The pain you experience doesn’t mean that something needs fixing. So the pain actually signals that your body is doing the right thing! While that doesn’t make it hurt any less, it can help you approach your labour pain with a better understanding of it and a stronger mental capacity to cope with it. 

A positive mental approach can help

How we mentally go into labour and birth affects how we experience it and think about it afterwards. So Mama, you have a choice. You can approach labour and birth thinking:

1. “This is going to be horrendous. It will be the worst pain ever and be the absolute worst day of my life.” Chances are, it will be if you think like this. 

or

2. “Yep, this is going to hurt. My body and mind will be challenged, but the pain is not bigger than me. It’s a part of me and I am stronger than it! I will work with it to bring my baby into the world and I’m going to be so proud of my efforts after”. If you think like this, then you will be. 

Pain is only part of the experience

For most women, it doesn’t actually matter how the baby comes out. It’s the journey you take and what you experience throughout your labour and birth that matters most. This includes:

  • How you were treated.
  • If you were listened to or not.
  • How you felt emotionally throughout your labour and birth.

While some people don’t experience labour as painful, the majority of people in this world do. It’s important for you to prepare for the pain. 

That’s where the big question comes in…

How can you possibly prepare for the pain of childbirth?

The fact that you’re reading this article means that you’re already preparing for it! You’re opening your mind to it and are willing to learn about it. Go you!

Other ways to prepare include:

  • Obtaining knowledge and tools to manage pain in labour – this may involve seeking help from a physio (I offer a course that can help!), or selecting a particular maternity care provider to assist you during labour.
  • Making the right pain management choices for you, and learning about your pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical options.
  • Preparing for when you hit a crisis of confidence during labour (which happens to everyone at some point!).

Share this article with a mum-to-be who could use some encouragement in the lead-up to her labour!


Expert author: Bernadette Lack

Bernadette is a midwife, personal trainer and Founder of Core & Floor Restore. Get more excellent information on labour techniques by following her on Instagram and checking out her FREE and very helpful online antenatal classes.

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