Monday, March 23, 2009

Memories of Childbirth Pain

I read an interesting study over at At Your Cervix a few weeks ago. Here's a link to the article: Memory of labor pain influenced by a woman's childbirth experience, by Megan Rauscher.

Here's an excerpt:
"Research shows that for about half of women who give birth, memories of the intensity of labor pain decline over time. However, for some women, their recollection of pain does not seem to diminish and for a minority, their memory of pain increases with time.

The study also shows that the memory of childbirth pain is influenced by a woman's overall satisfaction with her labor experience."
I've read again & again that women who report feeling "satisfied" with their births are the ones who participated in making decisions about their care. As strange as it may seem to some people, it wasn't how much pain they felt or didn't feel - it was how safe they felt, and how much control they had over what happened to them.

So I'm not surprised that some these same feelings also impact the memory of pain. I believe that there can be a psychological component to pain, especially to pain during labor and birth. Not that I believe that labor pain is all in the mother's head! Just that there are psychological components that affect how painful labor seems - does mom feel safe? does she understand the normal birth process? does she have someone there to support her during the birth?
"Five years after the women had given birth, 49% remembered childbirth as less painful than when they rated it 2 months after birth, 35% rated it the same, and 16% rated it as more painful. 'A commonly held view,' Dr. Waldenström noted in an email to Reuters Health, 'is that women forget the intensity of labour pain. The present study...provides evidence that in modern obstetric care, this is true for about 50 percent of women.'

However, a woman's labor experience was an influential factor. Women who reported labor as a positive experience 2 months after childbirth had the lowest pain scores, and their memory of the intensity of pain had declined by 1 year and 5 years after giving birth."
Isn't that interesting? Positive experience = less reported pain during labor, and less pain remembered afterwards. I wonder if this would be an incentive to pregnant women to think about what a positive birth experience would feel like to them... and then help motivate them to do the work that is possible to do ahead of time (choosing a care provider and birth place, especially)?

Finally, I was not surprised to see this information:
"The researchers also found that women who had epidural analgesia remembered pain as more intense than women who did not have an epidural, suggesting, they say, that these women remember 'peak pain.' However, their perception of how painful labour had been also declined with time."
Anybody care to share their memories of pain during labor? Any thoughts on how pain is perceived in labor, in relation to psychological factors? Or in relation to decisions made with the laboring mom instead of for her?

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
New Mothers Support Circle

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