12 July 2009

Labour and Swearing

I was going to have an early night, but I read an article today that infuriated me and I feel the need for a rant.

Before I start I would like to state that I am not a medical person, I'm a mum. This is my point of view and my repsonse to what I read.

You can read the article (and the many comments) from The Observer here.

I'm not sure whether the male midwifery professor, Dr Denis Walsh, was being deliberately provocative. He advocates natural childbirth. That's not controversial, but his reasons are. He states that the pain of childbirth is a rite of passage that women should experience if they are to nurture their babies afterwards. What a load of nonsense!

I'm not ready to share my birth stories yet, but what I will say - and this is purely based on my own experience of labour - is that it hurts.

I'm sorry pregnant mums to be, but for me labour was excruciating agony.

How does a man know what labour pain feels like? I don't care how many births he's witnessed, he can't possibly have any idea of how relentless and tiring labour is. Once you've given birth you then have no time to recover from what is the equivalent of running a marathon before you face the sleepless nights with a newborn.

I didn't have an epidural, but I reserve the right to ask for one.

It shouldn't be a competition to see who can go the longest without pain relief. There are no medals for bravery. Of course we all hear about women 'breathing the baby out'. I'm sure some lucky ones do have wonderful natural birth experiences, but if we hold this up as the standard then I believe we are setting ourselves up for failure. Many women are traumatised by their delivery room experiences. This may be due to an unrealistic expectation that they can manage the pain by breathing and yoga alone, and then they find that this is not enough.

Walsh says that '20% of epidurals are unnecessary'. What on earth does this mean? If someone's in pain you give them pain relief. How can it be unnecessary? I'd like to see him go through a thirty-six hour back labour and not scream for some pain relief.

Sorry, rant over.

Pregnant mums to be, yes labour hurts, but it's only temporary, there is always an end and you get your baby at the end of it. Would I go through it again? Of course, again and again.


Now onto another labour related article, in the Telegraph this time. Apparently swearing can reduce the feeling of pain! You can read it here. I didn't swear much during labour, mainly because I had the Entonox mouthpiece in most of the time!

I had a good swear today though, at the expense of Dr Walsh!



  1. Only a man could come out with rubbish like that.
    Do we tell them how to pee standing up?! NO!

    Apparently, I invented a new swear during labour - feckard.
    Don't remember doing so, don't know what it means, but I quite like it :)

  2. What a load of utter rubbish that "man" has to share.If I had to go through it again, I'd be 1st in the queue for pain relief, after attempting to be brave last time (as he suggests). As a result of refusing pain relief, my 50hr birth was so difficult and painful that I spent many months recovering (4m before I was physically well enough to leave the house, and I was by no means better), suffered PND, struggled to bond and completely "missed out" on the wonderful newborn stage. I'm sorry, but if this "experience" "prepared" me for the responsibilities of motherhood, I'd love to see what we might be allowed to inflict upon this "man" to prepare him for fatherhood.....all it did for me was prevent me from caring for my newborn the way I wanted to : i.e. in a loving and responsive way....I was just too ill!

  3. He's not one of those odd, fundamentalist Christians who believe all women should be punished because of Eve's sins, is he? Either way, he's barmy. And I can say that with all the experience of having my hand crushed (twice) while standing watching!

  4. Only a man could say this! We are all independent human beings who have varying levels of pain tolerance. You have to listen to your intuition and not be sheep following what other people suggest as what might be ok for one person, may not for another. There are no right or wrong way, if something does not suit, you should be able to make the decision without feeling guilty or inadequate.

  5. I think it is all a matter of experiences. Everyone is different and the pain threshold varies between people. With my first baby, I went in believing that my mind would help me stand the pain (flowers on my head and birds singing in the background :)) it didn't go this way AT ALL!! contractions started at 09 pm and by midday the following day I would have killed someone for an epidural. I did get it, it slowed down everything, my baby went in distress and after 1 hour of pushing, at around 1am the following day, baby had to be extracted with forceps. It was all a bit traumatising, but the minute I was holding my gorgeous boy, who looked like he had faced the hardest battle of his life (and he did poor thing) everything was forgotten. When I got pregnant the second time I read lots on the power of the mind to help stand the pain and followed an natal hypnotherapy program. I know that the fact he was the second made the whole thing quicker and better but when we were on our way to hospital 12 hours after my contractions started I was swearing in the car and said something like "bollocks to the breathing and mind stuff, as soon as we are arrive I DEMAND AN EPIDURAL!!". When we got there, the midwife examined me, told me I was fully dilated and ready to push. 4 pushes later he was in my arms! The thing was that I did it all on my own with my "mind" and my birthing ball! Pain is really a matter of how you handle it. But I also agree that no one should have to go through the worst pain ever if you can relieve it somehow. Everyone can make their own decision and should not feel guilty or superior should they go through childbirth with or without pain relief. Follow your belief and intuition is what matters. I believe that the whole experience is sum of different factors that are very personal and no experience will be exactly the same to everyone. So whatever which doctor says what, because there will always be another one saying the opposite anyway :)

  6. I had a 'walking epidural'. By the time I presented myself at the hospital for the 4th or 5th time, cos they kept sending me away, I think I told the staff that they either admit me and give me drugs (no not those - I want the full works now), or I was going to throw myself out of the window. After that it was like lying on a beach...I chatted away the hours sweet as pie. I think if the whole 'package' had been a little more welcoming, reassuring and friendly I might not have felt the need to have my pain receptors knocked out. Drugs are just one bit of the equation...perhaps if I'd done more swearing the first time I was admitted...Thanks for thought provoking post. Loved the swearing article (so sweet that someone had to be dropped from the research group 'cos they couldn;t think of enough swear words!).

  7. No one can possibly understand how giving birth makes one feel - unless they've done it themselves. I didn't give birth till the age of 32 and my whole perception of life changed. I looked on my own mum with much more respect I can tell you. And men can never know! Even if they are a gyneacologist!

  8. If childbirth created the same level of pain for every woman then I can (in some ways) understand the points that this man makes. People often ask - 'why does childbirth have to be so hard/painful/difficult when it's such a natural thing?' I always think that the pain of childbirth is in some ways a contributing factor to bonding with your baby - after every thing you've been through you feel you deserve this little bundle at the end. HOWEVER... there is no generic level of pain which women experience - all births are different and all women are different. I approached my first birth with excitement, almost looking forward to labour as an experience that I would be going through (how naive)!! But my excruiating 36-hour back labour was not a simple case of just bearing the pain. It left me completely traumatised. When I did get pregnant for the second time I spent 9 months worrying about labour. Luckily, second time around was much quicker and much more 'enjoyable'. But what this does remind me is that all births are different and unless you have experienced a horribly painful birth, then you are in no position to judge.

  9. I can feel my blood pressure rising just reading about it. I must not rant. GRrrrrr. Rant rant rant.

    What I can't take is the inferral that if you have an epidural you have somehow failed. We have enough to beat ourselves up with in motherhood, could we not add another one to the long list please? Everyone is different, every birth is different. Could all these people who feel the need to lecture just sod off? It is tough enough as it is.

    Step away from the keyboard, Brit, step away from the keyboard. Deep breaths. Go and make a cup of tea. Pause on the rants...

    Thanks for highlighting it - I don't get UK newspapers here so I'm pleased to see what garbage they are coming out with now.

  10. Don't you just want to slap him?


  11. Hmph that's made me really mad too. "Pain prepares women for the demands of motherhood" errrr, how exactly? Bollocks!

    I had two births with just gas and air, and I am proud of that but there's no way I would say anyone else should be forced to! It was my intention to have all the drugs going but the first time I was ready to push by the time I asked and second time I was told in advance I wasn't allowed an epidural because of a problem with my blood platelets. I was very lucky in that my first baby was born within two hours of getting to hospital and my second within four, I can't begin to imagine how any woman who has a long labour would cope without any chemical help if they want it.

    First time around I had severe post natal depression and bonding problems for months, I can promise anyone reading that if you get it and feel worried it might be because you didn't "suffer enough" it wouldn't make any difference.

    Mel xxx

  12. Leslieanne, I like feckard. I don't know what it means either, but I bet you could use it in the sentence ' Dr Denis Walsh is a feckard'!! Love your blog on this subject too :-)

    Allgrownup, I'm so sorry that you had an awful birth experience and such a long recovery period. I'm sure next time will be so much better (it was for me) x

    Tim, apparently not, although that may well be the case. Andy's shoulder still hasn't recovered from me grabbing hold of him 22 months ago! 10 months ago he stayed out of grabbing distance. Chicken!

    B, I totally agree. The guilt thing is huge and doesn't stop with labour. We're all under too much pressure to be supermum.

    PHM, I think your first experience of labour is a familiar one. My second labour was so much better than my first in so many ways, partly because I knew what to expect. As you say following your intuition is also important. What you said in the car for the second birth is so funny :-)

    HMHB, what you said about being sent home has raised my hackles - again! Only you know how you're feeling. Only you can feel the pain. I'm glad you had a good experience in the end :-) I don't think I'd run out of swear words. Ahem!

    Gaelikaa, yes, giving birth is one of those experiences you can't quite describe to someone else. You have to go through it.

    MT, I understand what you're saying about being rewarded with a baby after all that pain, but if someone is happier with an epidural then that's fine for them too. No one else should judge you for your pain threshold. Like you, my first birth was traumatic, the second was strangely enjoyable. I think the pain was at the same level for both though. It's just that I was better able to cope with it second time around, possibly because I knew what to expect and I wasn't in shock!

    Brit, how's the blood pressure? Sorry for making you rant! I love your comment, it's spot on and exactly how I feel!

    GG, yes! I won't repeat what one of my Twitter friends said, but it involved Dr Walsh and a melon. I'll say no more!

    Mel, I'm so sorry you had PND and trouble bonding, despite having a relatively 'easy', epidural free birth. I only had gas and air too, but my labours were both less than 12 hours from start to finish. Any longer and I think I would have been screaming for some help! x

  13. I am lost for words here. He can't have been serious! This must have been a media 'joke', right?! I am not an aggressive person, but this really wants me to hit this idiot...

  14. What an idiot. I had an epidural twice, but the bits where I didn't made me realise I needed them. I could not have gone through 17 hours of labour without.

  15. MM, apparently not! The Observer asked Gurgle mums for their opinions, but chose not to report them. Particularly the ones that caled him a tosser! It has also been reported in the Telegraph http://www.stumbleupon.com/s/#5IRSg9/www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/5810342/Women-should-go-through-pain-in-childbirth-says-male-midwife.html/ and on the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8147179.stm.

    Mwa, I don't think I could have carried on much longer without an epidural with my first if he didn't arrive when he did. Having said that he arrived (by ventouse) seven minutes before I was due to go to theatre for a section!

  16. That man knows nothing!! I didn't have a labour and had a c/section doesn't mean I haven't bonded with BG!!

    There is an award for you at mine x

  17. I agree with Met Mum, surely this is a joke?! What a load of rubbish!

  18. Well!! After 20 hours or so of pain and no sleep, my epidural was very welcome, if only so I could get some sleep!! It's not just the pain, it's the length of time you're in that pain. I managed to give birth with a small cut (episiotomy) and I breastfed S for a year. Didn't do us any harm. With B my labour was only a few hours and I had her just after I got to the hospital with gas and air. Result - easy birth and still breastfeeding at 11mths old, no problems, no difference. I bet that 'midwife' wouldn't say that in a room full of mums!

  19. NM, yes, bonding and being a mum isn't about the birth, it's about loving that child for the rest of your life. Thanks for the award too x

    Thames, I know!

    C, I love your last line! I don't know how he'll ever be able to show his face in public after this!!

  20. Though I'm a big advocate of natural birth as a valid choice, and feel that in the US where I live the choice is fast vanishing due to hosptial protocols and staff with no experience of natural birth, and would hate to see the UK go the same way (we don't have gas and air as an option most places here either) it sounds like this guy is going about it all the wrong way. The bonding thing especially. What does that say to those who adopt their children? That they love them less because they didn't go through pain to get them? Nonsense!

  21. Geekymummy, hi there, yes I agree totally. It's all very well to advocate natural birth, but the NHS must support mothers if they choose this and not force them to lie on a bed on a monitor (as was my experience).


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