Ways dad can help manage pain during labor

I recently watched a video on Facebook featuring Ina May Gaskin. If you don’t know who Ina May Gaskin is, she is a well-known midwife, author of Spiritual Midwifery and founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center. She is also described as “the mother of authentic midwifery”. She was speaking to a group of people about reducing fear of childbirth among women in the U.S.

Ina May said, “We are the only species that can doubt its ability to give birth.”

What a profound statement.

She correlated fear in childbirth with pain. As in, the more fear you generate, the more pain you will feel. How do you help eliminate fear in a birthing mom? You focus on the atmosphere in which the woman gives birth in. She should feel safe and secure, private, the lights should be low and she should have her loved ones nearby.

Ina encouraged moms to spend time with their partners during labor. Relaxing, breathing, talking, laughing, touching, kissing–all of these things help bring the blood down to the part of the woman’s body which is opening during labor. This kind of activity produces oxytocin, which stimulates endorphins and creates feelings of love and inhibits pain.

Pretty amazing stuff.

I thought of the moments I shared with my husband during each and every one of our children’s births. I absolutely needed him by my side. His presence was so reassuring, so comforting–I just knew I could do it if he was there to help me. It was just as intimate as the act that got us there.  Still, it didn’t make my labor pain-free–it hurt, plain and simple. But he definitely helped me and I don’t think my six labors would’ve been the same if he wasn’t there.

I recently discovered these wonderful birth photos from photographer Jackie Dives and I couldn’t help but feel like I witnessed a very intimate connection between two people. What a lovely depiction of the naturalness of childbirth. By simply doing what a loving partner should, he helped inhibit his wife’s pain. Please check out the birth photos of Julia and Cris.

Did your husband/partner/significant other’s presence help you during the birth of your child?

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9 thoughts on “Ways dad can help manage pain during labor”

  1. I’ve had six births, guys. While they were all highly unpleasant at various points and I swore I would never do it again, after time passes you gain perspective. I only had ONE truly excruciating birth, which was my last. I thought I was going to go insane during that labor. Even with support, a peaceful environment and little to no fear–it HURT. She was almost 10 pounds–maybe that had something to do with it. Also, I foolishly let my midwife strip my membranes, thinking that would speed up the process. That made the last 30 minutes of my labor HORRIBLE. I was so thankful it was over. If I had only that birth to judge childbirth–omg I would only have ONE CHILD. The end. 🙂

  2. For the record, I too had a natural birth and it was the worst, most excruciating pain I could never have imagined, but with support and trusting my body to do what it was built for, I got through it and I survived. Maybe this doesn’t work for all women, but I think you may have read too much into this. She is not attacking anyone for how their birth may or may not have turned out. 🙂

  3. Sandra, I think you missed the point. It wasn’t that no fear=pain free birth, or if you have pain, you failed. I think it was more along the lines of reducing your fear, trusting your body and having amazing support will help to lessen the pain and/or make it more bearable. Yes, things can go wrong, but fear should not guide or determine our decisions. People get into car wrecks every day and get killed, but does that determine whether or not we drive that day and let the fear get the best of us. She wasn’t trying to demean anyone, just simply offer help and a different approach than most women are used to. 🙂

  4. Jackie,

    Also “unbearable” pain is not due to fear either and that idea has hurt countless women, myself included. I know that, because I looked for them. Feel free to read these posts. Research has been clear that 25% of women, regardless of circumstances rate natural birth as “excruciating/unbearable.” One fourth is not a small proportion and I promise you that those of us who fit into it are very hurt by the overall “if you have no fear you will not experience unbearable pain” (the alternative of which is, if you experienced unbearable pain there must be something wrong with your mindset.) What a terribly hurtful idea to espouse.

    Unbearable pain is part of the natural pain spectrum involved during childbirth. I am quite sure my excruciating pain had a lot more to do with my third degree tear and related birth injuries than it had to do with my “lack or presence of fear”. Along with most of the other women in that “fourth”, I had and have a great mindset, thank you very much. I am one of them. Pleased to meet you. If you are curious whether there are other women like me that have natural births and experience severe/excruciating pain I would encourage you to look for them and with an open mind that there was and is nothing wrong with the way they view birth. I believe you will find, and in no small numbers.

  5. Hi Sandra,
    I believe the quote from the Ina May clip is not that pain in childbirth is due to fear, but that *unbearable* pain is due to fear. And sure, it’s normal for a woman to be apprehensive and slightly scared about the experience, as she hasn’t done it before, but more importantly, what I believe Ina May is saying, is that if a woman completely trusts her body knows how to do what it needs to do, then the fear will be much less. I don’t think it’s realistic to abolish fear, but mind over matter in childbirth will *certainly* lessen in. I have seen that many many times at births I have attended.

  6. Ok. So many things, where to start. First, Ina May is phenomenal, yes. Second, birth is natural, yes. Third, Nature can be brutal and cruel, so I would not turn this experience into something super fluffy. It can and has killed women, it is not a walk in the park for any woman and I would caution anyone about being to la-la about it. Fourth, I have all natural births and most probably always will. I am not highly ideological or romantic about them. I give birth very very fast, so it’s sort of, that’s the way it is. Fifth, and, I think, most important the push to say, “all your pain is a result of fear and if you have a great mindset it will be fine,” is tricky for 3 reasons. First, if you flip it around it basically says, “if you experienced severe pain( as research says 25% of mothers do, regardless of circumstances) giving birth naturally then it must be because you had a bad attitude or too much fear.” And then, how about we flip it again. “If you experienced manageable pain or even no pain in childbirth you should credit yourself personally for your wonderful mindset and your lack of fear. Way to go you. If every woman could have your mindset, of course they too would not experience severe pain.”

    Ouch. Ouch Ouch.

    I think that idea just hurt more than the birth. Birth is natural AND pain in birth is natural, for animals and humans. There is skeletal, tissue and muscular damage that happens in childbirth and the pain in childbirth is not a result of your mindset. It is very real. Birth injury is very real and not uncommon. Also births without injury are not uncommon. I have seen birth hurt from Germany, to Israel to the mountains of Ecuador, regardless of “mindset” or any other factors other than that woman’s particular body, that baby’s particular position.

    For that matter Fear is perfectly natural too. I am tired of the pressure on women not to feel fear for an experience which is probably going to be the toughest of her life. Fear makes absolute and perfect sense.

    I do not credit myself for sailing through contractions and dilation with comparatively little pain and problem (in all of an hour, mind you) nor do I blame a “bad mindset” for experiencing excruciating pain during my all of 90 seconds of pushing stages (over which I have absolutely no control–I am not even pushing. That baby is C.O.M.I.N.G regardless of anything I do. I think that is important to say to women. How you feel, what you experience is going to be a whole mix of factors, few of which we can control and there is no judgement for not loooooving natural birth. I think a woman would be hardpressed to give birth faster and to healthier babies than I (10 and 10). But I experience a great deal of pain in bringing them to the world. I did with my first, when I had ZERO fear going in, and I did with my second when I had as much fear as I possibly could have.

    And as you can probably imagine, too much of the “it is sooooo beauuuuuuuutiful and woooooonderful” posts about natural childbirth rub me the wrong way. Birth is beautiful. It is also bloody and gory and empowering (ish) AND a sacrifice on the part of the woman from which it will take a matter of weeks to months recover from.

    Lastly, my husband is a rockstar during birth. No, I could not at all do it without him, nor would I ever wish to. He is simply breathtaking and everything for me. It does not mean I am not afraid while giving birth, or that I *should* be unafraid while giving birth or that natural birth does not come hand in hand with severe pain for me as a matter of course, regardless of whatever “mindset” I happen to be having that day or pregnancy.

    Deep breath. There. Glad I got that off my chest. 😉

  7. Ha ha! Mine was zero help (partly my fault)! Every time he put his hand on my forehead or touched me, I was like get off of me!!! Then he almost missed the birth by going out to the car to get the video camera. He was supportive before and after, though, so it’s all good. Every woman is different, though, and I totally get how a nice supportive husband could be a definite pain reducer. Just that mine wasn’t!

  8. I must agree fully. I highly doubt that if my significant other hadn’t held my hand through a full hour and a half of contractions i wouldn’t have gotten that far. Not only that but level of comfort during my contractions was so powerful that i was completely distracted.

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