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Women Should Not Be Ashamed To Have Pain Relief During Childbirth, Doctors And Midwives Argue

'We want women to be proud of the amazing thing they are doing.'

07/11/2016 12:06

Women shouldn’t feel ashamed if they have pain relief during the birth of their child, according to doctors and midwives.

Medical staff intend to break the myth that having no pain relief during childbirth is better for mothers and their babies, by presenting evidence to the contrary at a Royal Society of Medicine meeting in December 2016.

“We decided it was about time the public were told about pain and pain relief in labour by a group without a ‘natural’ agenda,” Dr Felicity Plaat, president-elect of the Obstetric Anaesthetists’ Association told The Sunday Times on Sunday 6 November.

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Dr Plaat continued: “Too often have I been asked to discuss or provide epidural analgesia to women not just suffering from extreme pain of labour, but a feeling that they have failed because they ask for or need epidural analgesia - a feeling sometimes amounting to shame.

“We want to inform women so they enter labour not afraid and for those women who need pain relief, we want them to use it proud of the amazing thing they are doing.”

Evidence presented at the Royal Society of Medicine meeting is expected to explain how a body in pain is likely to increase the level of stress hormones for women in labour.

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) told The Huffington Post UK: “Women should be free to choose their own form of managing pain during labour from relaxation techniques to epidurals.

“There’s no reason to feel ashamed of any of these options. It’s time to bust the myth that woman are ‘failures’ if they choose pharmaceutical help with pain relief.

“It’s helpful for women, and their birth partners, to find out beforehand what different options are available for pain relief, so that they can decide what’s best for them.

“However, it’s important to keep an open mind as things don’t always go according to plan.”

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said it is important to remember pain relief in childbirth is different for every woman.

She said that epidurals can increase instrumental births (also referred to as operative vaginal delivery births), where a baby needs help to be born with instruments attached to their head such as forceps. 

“The choice belongs to each woman and midwives will support them whatever they choose,” she told HuffPost UK.

“However, it is less easy to be active and upright with an epidural, as most remove any sensation below the waist.

“Many women have the ability to manage pain during childbirth themselves unassisted, others do not, this doesn’t make the labour better or worse in itself, but women need to work out what suits them best.”

In May 2015, a study concluded that women giving birth should not be made to wait for epidural pain relief and should be given it as soon as they ask for it. 

The Cochrane Review of nine studies involving nearly 16,000 first-time mums found the timing of the epidural made no difference to the length of labour or whether the mother experienced complications.

Lead researcher Dr Ban Leong Sng, said at the time: “The right time to give an epidural is when the woman requests pain relief.”

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