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Pain vs Suffering

Updated: Apr 3

A lot of us have been raised to believe that labor and birth equals huge amounts of pain and suffering. We have absorbed a lifetime of fear-based messages and unrealistic images around labor and birth. Videos and images in the media and stories from well meaning friends or family can leave the same impression: if you don't want to suffer through it, your only choice is medication. In fact, epidurals are hailed as a way of avoiding this. A magic bullet, a cure all. Poof, no more suffering.


In reality, all of the most challenging labors I have supported have involved pain relieving medications


I share this not to dump on medicine or to shame anyone but to increase awareness of this very real fact: giving birth is a BIG MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL EVENT.

You cannot rely on medication alone to have a positive experience.


Birth Photography at Duke Regional Hospital. Laboring person sitting on the bed, partner supporting hips

Much of the difficulties that come up during labor actually have very little to do with painful sensations. When I see clients having a hard time it's always related to something that cannot be removed with pain relief. Things like: being exhausted, feeling upset by the timeline of labor, having no control, being stressed by the hospital environment and disruptive beeping and booping, feeling panicked by the deadweight sensation of the epidural, feeling worried about the baby, being frustrated having no mobility, the intense pressure of the baby's head, facing something unexpected, being upset when the medication doesn't work the way you are hoping (yes this actually happens a lot), feeling unheard or dismissed by the medical staff.


This is because pain and suffering are not the same thing.


Suffering is an emotional state.

You can be in pain and not suffering.

On the other hand, you can suffer without feeling pain.

  • Being ignored or disrespected

  • Feeling unsafe

  • Feeling out of control

  • Being unprepared

  • Not having support

  • Feeling alone

  • Not having choices

  • Experiencing a loss


I never want any of my clients to suffer. Only you can make that call for yourself. It's never a failure to have medication. If that is what you want, I want you to have that choice. However, I always want my clients to know they have many options and to have a positive experience. This means understanding that birth is about more than just the physical sensations of pain. If you are having a hard time, medications will not solve everything.


I really love this video by Penny Simkin, talking more about this topic.


You cannot guarantee your experience will be stress-free, whether you have medication or not. But you can do a lot ahead of time to prepare yourself, learn about normal birth, practice coping measures, make sure you have knowledge of your options and great support during this very important time.


Want to talk more about how I can help you have positive experience giving birth? Are you pregnant in Durham, Raleigh or Chapel Hill Areas? Get in touch today! I would be honored to support you









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