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Is all pain in childbirth due to fear?

From Laurie's Thoughts on Childbirth Frequently Asked Questions

I have had two nearly painless labors and births, but the first took lots of mental, emotional, and spiritual preparation to attain because I had lots of personal roadblocks in those areas at the time. When I did experience pain for a few contractions during my first and second labors it was very definitely attributable to fear, but fear is not the reason for every woman's labor pain. It's important to recognize that there are numerous possible sources of labor pain, especially in an attended birth, and therefore there are numerous ways to address it. It is unwise to focus on one method of removing pain from labor alone -- whether it be taking drugs or alleviating fears -- while ignoring the rest.

I've seen too many women get sold on the idea that all you need to do to have a painless birth is eliminate fear, then go on to accept every imaginable birth intervention but blame the messengers of the fear/tension/pain cycle theory for their painful deliveries. It is true that fear is a major cause of unnecessary labor pain, as authors Laura Shanley and Grantly Dick-Read have expertly illustrated in their books Unassisted Childbirth and Childbirth Without Fear. But for readers of these works to assume that fear is the only cause of childbirth pain is to miss many of these writers' other excellent points.

Even if you are not fearful at all, you may experience excruciating pain during labor and birth for other reasons such as an unnatural (counter-productive) labor position, artificial labor stimulation, disregarded modesty, past sexual abuse left unaddressed, tension, hunger, thirst, need to urinate/empty bowels, restricted movement, loneliness, lack of privacy, being treated with disrespect, exhaustion, relationship problems, a rare natural complication, distraction, focusing on contractions, believing that birth has to be painful, and so on.

It's important in any discussion of painless birth to keep in mind that birth does not have to be sensationless to be painless, or even extremely pleasurable. In my personal experience many things that are worth experiencing are not sensationless nor easy. Intercourse for instance, can be a mixture of extreme pleasure, hard work, and sometimes even true pain, but it is all worthwhile to me and integral to the experience. I wouldn't want any of my birth sensations dulled any more than I would want to have my sexual sensations dulled. The opening and thinning of the cervix, the strong and rhythmic contractions of the uterine muscle, the stretching of the vaginal wall and pelvic ligaments, the tension at the perineum, and the final climax of a beautiful, wet new life sliding into your hands -- these sensations are AWESOME and not to be missed!

The key to painless birth is not for the mother to be lucky enough to have a high threshold for pain either. I personally have a very, very low threshold and tolerance for pain, for example. Mere gas bubbles in my stomach will bring me to my knees, and simple nausea has made me wish to die, which is one of the reasons I once feared labor and birth so much. I thought, "If I can't even handle simple gas, how will I handle a baby passing through my body?" but as I explain in my book (link below), this stemmed from a major misconception about the source of pain in labor. All it took was getting my facts straight -- that most often it's not the baby coming out that hurts but the contractions of the uterus -- to alleviate that fear.

Despite a very trivial amount of simultaneous pain, nothing in my life has ever felt as good as the moments my daughters Angelica and Cierra entered the world unhindered. Even though the birth of my first daughter will never be matched in intensity of wonder at the miracle and realization of love for my baby, an important spiritual element of childbirth was definitely stolen from all of us (John, myself, and Christiana) by the unnecessary trauma that came with the "assistance" we had bought. In contrast, my second and third births were sacred, joyous expressions of the intense love my husband and I feel for one another, and we wouldn't exchange those moments -- those beautiful beginnings -- for any price.

For more details about the hindrances that abound in so-called "assisted" birth, and revelation of the simple way that every family can take back their rights to completely regret-free, joyous, pleasurable childbirths, read my first book The Power of Pleasurable Childbirth, free of charge right here on So to answer the question, "Is all pain in childbirth due to fear?" I say, painful birth can indeed have a lot to do with the laboring woman's mindset, but no, it's not all in her head!

More articles by Laurie Morgan
(these articles do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Compleat Mother magazine)
Are Castor oil and other so-called natural inductions safe?
How long should a woman feel comfortable going overdue?
Is pain-free birth really possible?
Is all pain in childbirth due to fear?

Letter to my unborn first child
Cierra's Joyous Birth (short story)
It hurts to be silent

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