The gentlebirth.org website is provided courtesy of
Ronnie Falcao, LM MS, a homebirth midwife in Mountain View, CA


Birth Joy and Pain

Easy Steps to a Safer Pregnancy - View e-book or Download PDF - FREE!
An interactive resource for moms on easy steps they can take to reduce exposure to chemical toxins during pregnancy.

Other excellent resources about avoiding toxins during pregnancy

These are easy to read and understand and are beautifully presented.

See also:

Subsections on this page:


The Pain of Labour - A Feminist Issue by Andrea Robertson

Turning Fear and Pain into Relaxed Focus for Birthing

No Gain Without Pain! by Nicky Leap

Keeping birth normal: The midwifery art of being with women in pain in labour (ppt) - Nicky Leap, Director of Midwifery Practice - presentation - web stream - Visiting lectures from The Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery

Nicky Leap's references (Word)

Timing Of Women's Labor May Determine Effectiveness Of Pain Medication - [9/15/05] Natural daily body rhythms may influence the effectiveness of spinal-epidural pain medication for women in labor, according to new research from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. The study found that women who had day labor got longer pain relief than women with night labor with the same amount of labor pain medicine.

Study: It really does hurt to wait - For some, anticipation can be as bad as pain they know is coming [5/5/06] - Anyone who's ever taken a preschooler to the doctor knows they often cry more before the shot than afterward.  Now researchers using brain scans to unravel the biology of dread have an explanation: For some people, anticipating pain is truly as bad as experiencing it.

People ask me "why would anyone go without pain medication for labor if they have a choice otherwise?"

I usually answer "Why do some people run 26 miles in a marathon despite the pain and effort? For the sense of exhilaration, accomplishment and the satisfaction that you have done the best for your body."

I have seem such a research, but I can not remember where I saw it.....I think it may have been in a Mothering Magazine article many years ago, if someone remembers this study please let us know where to find it, as I have many times kicked myself for not saving it. The study asked women with and without drugs a certain set of questions immediately after birth and the exact same questions months after birth. Immediately after birth the drug free women described labor as the hardest thing they had ever done, that it hurt and they didn't like it. The drugged women said things like it was easy, not too bad at all. But months later the two groups totally turned around....the drugged group said that labor was the worst thing they had ever done, that it was painful and terrible, while the undrugged group said things like it was wonderful, the most rewarding experience of their lives, easy. The study tried to explain why women changed, but I don't remember what their explanation was. Of course I have drawn my own conclusions. Women today just can't imagine that if they would allowed themselves to fully experience labor in all it's good and bad sensations, that they would be happier in their future. I think that labor is a woman- building endeavor, it's what makes us strong and able-bodied ( though I will probably catch hell from the NOW for saying that!!!). Feeling capable helps us to handle our every day lives better. I felt like I could handle anything after having my first undrugged labor, I was totally charged up! What's the old saying? .......That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger!![GRIN] RE (The only problem with this is that at around 9 cm who doesn't want drugs.) When labor gets intense most ladies reach that point of thinking they cannot do it. And if it is a particularly difficult labor I'm sure the strongest NC mother would find herself wanting to escape. How many times have you heard the statement: I can't do this anymore. That's when I try the line (well, lines [GRIN]) .."You're right, you can't do this any more... And you don't HAVE to!. You're almost there! You've made it all the way through labor and only a tiny bit more to go... the very best part is coming, you'll get so much energy and feel so good when this last little bit of cervix is out of the way -- just a little bit of tissue is in the way, and then you'll get all this strength to push your baby out! You'll get to see what you've been working for... you're sooo close now....!"

When that woman looks into your eyes and says, I CAN'T DO IT ANY MORE! That is the time a midwife really shines. She will look right back, hold your hand, or maybe even your face in her hands and tell with all the compassion she has that you CAN do it! That millions of women HAVE done it. She will not steal YOUR birth experience away and make that statement I CAN'T DO IT ANY MORE!, a harsh, screaming reality! She will give it back to you, empower you and help you do it yourself. When that baby is in your arms, you will know for the rest of your life, THAT Y O U CAN DO ANYTHING!

Further reality check here. I've done endurance athletics, and I found that (induced, unmedicated) childbirth was far, far more painful than either running a marathon or bicycling 200 miles a day. In fact, it was much worse than doing the Ironman triathlon. A prominent several-time winner of the Race Across America, in which you ride a bicycle across the US in eight or nine days, riding twenty-two hours a day, reports that she found (uninduced, unmedicated) childbirth more painful than that.

First I think the most important factor for a woman to give birth unmedicated, in our highly medicalized american environment, is that she wants to.  But more than that, that she believes that nature has wisdom and woman have special powers to give birth.  Or just that she has sheer determination...lol.

Second that she surrounds herself with people who believe the same or at the least, fully support her desires and respect her wishes.

Third is luck.  Because sometimes birth is like a crap shoot.  Are you feeling lucky today????...lol. [Ed. Many of the "lucky" aspects can be helped along by a midwife who is paying close attention to all the factors in the pregnancy/labor.]

Three questions to ask:

1) On a scale of 1-10, how important is it that you give birth unmedicated?

2) Why? Why is her desire that number?  What are her motivations? ie: inner wisdom or fear.  Not that fear of an epidural needle is a bad reason, but I feel she needs to recognize and honor her fear based reason.

3) On a scale of 1-10, how much pain is she willing to tolerate before she thinks she might ask for pain meds?

Not that she will be held to these numbers or her answers, but so that people supporting her have an idea of where her head's at, so they can better support her.  And...so she can have some clarity on her own thoughts.  I sometimes find when a woman has a desire and a willingness to tolerate pain that are equal numbers, say both 7, 8 or 9, that she is connected with herself and open to the mystical powers of birth (whether she says it that way or not).  Also, I like to remind woman that they may actually be gauging their labor pain, but once they get to an 8 they are often transported to that magical place called labor land where the numbers don't mean anything anymore.....

And then.....lots of non-judgment by all and most of all herself!

Pain in Birth is Less for Dutch Women: Labor Pain: A Comparison of Parturients in Dutch and an American Teaching Hospital

Obstetrics and Gynecology, 71:541, No 4, April, 1988.


Women giving birth in two university hospitals, one in the Netherlands and the other in the United States, were surveyed postpartum regarding expectations of pain in labor and availability of medication for its relief, perceptions of the painfulness of labor, and use of analgesia and anesthesia. American women expected labor to be more painful, anticipated that they would receive medication for it, and did receive such medication in significantly grater proportions compared with Dutch parturients. These finding point to fundamental, culturally determined differences between these two societies with respect to women's views of the painfulness of childbirth

BTW: the numbers sampled were: 194 women in the US and 152 women in the Netherlands.

From one chicken to another, I very deeply understand your position on pain relief. In my first pregnancy, I read the book Painless Childbirth by Fernand Lamaze. I was taught to think of contractions as discomfort, etc. Well, I took it hook, line, and sinker!!! What I didn't know, and wasn't taught was that the staff in the hospital was NOT there to help you! Oh, Boy, had I been misled! I went on to have three more children, all without the use of medication because the risks of getting the medication FAR outweighed the perceived benefits. When I was pregnant with my 3rd, I learned that one can either create a high pain threshold or a low pain threshold, this being affected by whether you were tired, hungry, without a supportive environment, and not believing that you are able to handle 60 to 90 seconds of pain at a time, etc. When I put this to the "test" of having a home birth, I discovered labor wasn't that bad and that the anticipation of the pain of labor was worse than the actual experience. In other words, fear of labor makes labor horrific and unbearable. I sympathize deeply with women who have no supportive environment, etc., and am more than happy to recommend an epidural once they get into active labor so that they can get some much needed sleep, if nothing else! These are all very real variables in the subjective experience of pain, and do need to be recognized for their effect on laboring ability. This validation of the woman and her experience of life is something that enables empowerment. (I can't believe I'm arguing for drugs!)

Back to the subject, after the home birth of my 3rd, I was an empowered woman (at 20 years old!), and finally had my rite of passage into womanhood. I was no longer my mother's daughter, I was now my daughter's mother. (that realization alone was a mind blower!) I also knew that no one in the medical system was ever again going to rip me off! Soon I was pregnant with my 4th and had a no brainer decision about the next place of birth--at home again!

You must know, that it is not the experience of pain or no pain that causes home birth moms to deliver at home. It is the ability to give birth without unnecessary interferences inherent in the hospital system that one wishes to avoid. I don't disagree with pain medication when it is truly warranted. I smashed my fingers in the storm door of my home one time only to find myself immediately socked into the pain. I got a prescription of strong ibuprofen medication from my doctor only to find it didn't help and I was allergic to it. Broke out in hives on my chin and neck! That is about as close to anaphylaxis as I want to come! I break out in a sweat at the dentists when he gives me a shot, and any other time I get any other shot! So, from one chicken to the next, please keep an open mind. The experience is very much worth it. LOL

Freedom From Circumstances - "If there is truly nothing that you can do to change your here and now, and you can't remove yourself from the situation, then accept your here and now totally by dropping all inner resistance. The false, unhappy self that loves feeling miserable, resentful, or sorry for itself can then no longer survive. This is called surrender. Surrender is not weakness. There is great strength in it. Only a surrendered person has spiritual power. Through surrender you will be free internally of the situation. You may then find that the situation changes without any effort on your part. In any case, you are free."  ~Eckhart Tolle

Newly Found Gene Mutation Banishes Pain - All Things Considered, December 13, 2006 · A Pakistani teenager who entertained street crowds by walking on hot coals and sticking knives through his arms has led scientists to find a genetic defect that renders its carriers unable to feel pain. ["There is a complete lack of the pain response, but there's no other loss of sensory input."]


The Function of Joy in Pregnancy by Michel Odent, MD

Being Born Blessed (born in the rain) -by Leilah McCracken - this birth fantasy is based on Leilah's personal birthing experience, and she does a wonderful job of articulating the joy that is inherent in birth.

Changing "Fear/Tension/Pain" Into "Faith/Relaxation/Pleasure" from Laura Kaplan Shanley's pages on Unassisted Childbirth.

The Instinct of Birth (from Suzanne Palmer's site) - some stories about women following their instincts and having seemingly painless labors.

If we can understand that the best things in life do not come to us without our effort, and if we can discover a different understanding of childbirth pain, then we will find that we do not need to pull away and run for it, as if we are frightened.

Ecstatic Birth: The conscious evolution of a possibility to a present reality by Binnie A. Dansby
Paper delivered at Congress of the International Society for Pre- and Peri-- Natal Psychology and Medicine in Jerusalem, Easter 1989. This is but one of many interesting articles at http:

A Homebirth Mom Talks about Ecstasy

I have to say that even though the contractions were a lot of work, and yes, painful, the actual final expulsion after the crowning was quite an ecstatic feeling! I attribute that, in part, to pushing when and how I felt, or rather bearing down slightly but mostly allowing my uterus to do its job. 

Joy and Pain Mixed

What Does Labor Feel Like?

Can you also tell me if real labor is a lot like my Braxton hicks? The only symptom I have with what I have always supposed are Braxton hicks is a very shortness of breath to where lately I need to get in a head down all fours position and do deep abdominal breathing. I do not feel pain anywhere - I just can not breathe! Is this what labor is like - difficulty breathing and not really pain anywhere?

"I could never accurately describe the power of those contractions, except to say, it's the same type of power that brings the sun up in the morning."  A labouring mother

You want to know what labor is like, correct? Well, I can tell you about my experience w/labor, but everybody's labor is different. My water broke sometime in the middle of the night, and I woke up at 6am with a wet bed. Labor at that time just felt like menstrual cramps, which I experience in my lower back. As labor progressed, it started feeling like someone was squeezing me around my middle. It didn't hurt, but took my breath away. On our drive to the birth center around 5pm, the contractions really started to become intense - not sharp pain - just tightening around my middle and back. If felt like someone really heavy was standing on my back. Has your leg ever fallen asleep? You know that sensation you get after the numbness goes away, but before the pins & needles set in? I have never heard anyone else say they felt this when their leg goes to sleep, but mine would feel as if it was going to fall off or explode into a thousand pieces. That is how labor felt at that point. When I was examined at the birth center at 7pm, I was 5 cm (I had started out at 2 cm). From there labor progressed rapidly. I had back labor, so my back felt like it was going to explode, however, hard counterpressure using my husband's hands helped a lot. Also, I could feel my cervix stretching. Since my water had already broken, I could really feel the baby's head on my cervix. It was really hard and I won't lie, pretty painful. But I knew what it was and kept telling myself that meant the baby was helping me dilate. It felt like someone inserted two hands and was manually opening me up. I really concentrated on deep breathing, although now I think I should have just breathed the way I felt most comfortable. The deep breathing was quite difficult since I couldn't draw in a deep breath. Whatever you do, DO NOT hold your breath through a contraction. This is what you may feel like doing, but you will be reducing oxygen flow to your uterus and your baby, and making contractions more ineffective. You need to get out of the way and let your uterus do the work. Think about keeping your body as limp and relaxed as you can even though your reaction will be one to tighten up. Be especially observant of your hands, feet, mouth, and forehead. These are places people tend to hold tension, and when they are relaxed, the rest of your body will be more able to relax. Concentrating on your breathing will give you something to focus on. Focusing on external objects will only use up valuable energy, and usually doesn't work anyway - who can ignore sensations like labor?! Also at this time I felt tremendous pelvic pressure, like a ton of bricks was strapped around my belly and I had to hold them up. The weight was so incredible, another way to describe it is like someone was jackhammering a bowling ball out of my pelvis. Don't underestimate the power of the uterus! It is very strong, intense, and overwhelming at times. Practicing daily relaxation is essential! Only the last 2 hours of my labor (not including pushing) were what I would describe as really painful. Thinking about what was occurring inside my body and to my baby was reassuring and seemed to make it all make sense. Do what your instincts tell you in labor and pain management will be much easier. Don't hesitate to try different positions or tell everybody what it is you need. YOU know your body best! Hope this helps, but doesn't scare you.

I remember reading Spiritual Midwifery almost 16 years ago before my 1st baby was born, thinking, I am going to try all this stuff... kissing and such. I got into labor and if DH would have tried to "make out" with me during a "rush" ... well, let us just say my loving husband would have become a soprano and that would likely have been our last biological child.

When I was in labor with my 3rd, I did try to be loving to everyone. I told everyone (I loved) that I loved them - and really felt it. I worked hard to be sweet and tender and grateful for all the support I was getting, I thanked everyone for their participation, and for coming to my birth. I smiled as often as I could. I tried to make the birth the best birth anyone had ever attended! I wanted to be brave and sweet and amaze everyone with my tenderness and togetherness. That was my goal.  It HELPED SO MUCH! I really did feel so soft and joyful. In trying to portray it, I became it. Looking back at the pictures it really does look, even late in labor, as if I was having the best time! Not that it didn't hurt - but mindset was EVERYTHING. It felt so purposeful.

With #4 I didn't really prepare at all. I knew it was going to hurt, and just put that out of my mind. By then I had lots of confidence and knew that it would be one day out of my life. I knew I could handle it because I knew I could do anything for 2-3 minutes at a time. That labor was much easier, too. I spent most of it alone, while the house slept. That was really pretty cool!

I agree with those who recommend surrendering to labor and birth. Fighting it gets you no where, you can't fight it and win, so just yield to it. Give in to it. I also recommend you keep things as low key for as long as possible. Don't get all worked up 'cause you think you might be in labor. Go about your business, get some rest, relax, take a nap, eat, whatever... labor will come GET YOU when it is ready for your attention. Don't give it to much of your energy until it demands it.

Marathon Analogy for Labor and Birth

Collected Quotes about Birthing Exertion and Accomplishment

About Labor as Work rather than Pain

Even though there can be pain, I try not to use that word. I use the word "work." Does it hurt to work-out with weights or chop wood? Yes, but we are not afraid or overwhelmed by those tasks because though they are hard, the toil is manageable, and so rewarding. Someone on the list last fall described labor as being more like a football game than a marathon. I agree. For me it was not constant exertion, but rather minutes of hard, deep work followed by rests. And it was invigorating like football on a crisp fall day. And I had a team to help me. 

I've been doing homebirth midwifery since 1977. i think it's GREAT that we now have CNM's in hospitals, birth centers and at home and that the midwifery model of care is gaining credibility in theory and practice...

BUT- while i do agree with the position that yes, midwives in hospitals are helping women and THAT is the most important thing, I also believe we need to not lose sight of the fact that some of what the Mehls said about medicalization is absolutely TRUE... I see that in our American culture in general we medicate more and more and more of our life experiences- there is a drug for everything. To me, this is the important thread.

I offer non medicated homebirth because this is what i believe in and i can honestly practice this with integrity. We each have our niche. I respect all of you who work in the hospital- I don't think I could hack it.

Here's a story. First birth - Woman was GBS+ in 1st pregnancy, had a hospital birth with CNM, IV antibiotics, epidural (with 4+ hours of pushing a 9# 8 oz. baby) good kid, no problems.

This time they planned a homebirth. She labored at home 9 hours, 10 minutes pushing a 9# 4 oz. kid, no problems, no pain meds...

OK, now 3 days pp we are talking about the birth, the differences between home and hospital, how great she feels now compared to first time, how she felt everything, felt the kid move down with every push, and yeah how it hurt, but how she was GLAD there was no pain medication available because if there was she might have chosen it, to relieve the intensity of the feelings, and yet how happy she is to have been able to feel everything and how it's good there were no pain medications available because she might have said yes and missed out on the exquisite sensations of birthing her child...

Well, anyhow, i'm sure many of you have had similar conversations with women, but my point here is that we absolutely NEED to have that non medicated option available... IF she was in the hospital where meds were available and offered, she could have chosen them and not had the experience she had... How many women use pain meds in labor just because "it's there"?

I really don't think it's an either/or situation as far as value judgements, morality etc. I think we just need to each work with the system we know we can support, heart and soul. But i do believe we need to be on guard against getting lulled into the notion that pain meds are "ok", no big deal...

WE ARE engaged in changing the culture... and one of the big changes i think we need to work together on as midwives, regardless of our place of practice, is that birth doesn't have to be a horrendous painful scary event. So much of pain has to do with perception, and as many of you have already articulated, emotional support makes a difference. I think as midwives our work is to help to alleviate that idea that birth is awful and painful.

My pet peeve is fear and i think we all need to work to allay the heavy layers of fear that permeate birth in our culture. However we do that, whatever works, is our individual path. Some at home without any meds, some in the hospital with meds on occasion and are bridges...

i've chosen to stay working only at home because THIS option also needs to continue to be available: Birth as a normal life process, at the center of a woman's life- in her home, not as a medical event... No doctors, no drugs, no intervention...

No Fear - Birth Happens

Difference Between Laboring in the Hospital and Laboring at Home

There is a lot of difference between a 60 hour labor at home and a 60 hour labor in the hospital. My longest labor was 24 hours in the hospital that ended with a C-section. It truly was hell on earth. My husband and I were scared, left alone, not informed, and just basically treated badly with a lot of disrespect. My husband runs his own business, if he treated his clientele the same way the hospital personnel treated us he would be OUT of business.

My second labor was mainly at home with a planned hospital delivery. I labored with my husband and doula for 6 hours. But I have to say that we had a good time - we ate, drank, laughed, I took a bath. In fact, when we finally got into the van to go to the hospital (which was 60 minutes away) I was ready to push!! We did make it to the hospital and I had several more hours of pushing, but it was an exciting ride.

My third labor and birth were entirely at home. I awoke at 3:00 a.m. in labor. Went down to watch a movie and time contractions just to make sure this was the real thing. After the movie I went back to bed to save up my rest, and found my 2 year old in bed and husband in my other son's bedroom. So I cuddled my toddler and dozed off while timing contractions.

By 8:00 a.m. I was sure this was really labor. I called friends in between contractions to ask for their prayers, I folded towels. I made sure all the food was out of the freezer for the midwife, doula, babysitter and family. When my birth team finally arrived I visited with them for a while too. Sure it was a lot of work, but the time passed very quickly because the atmosphere and the people were so pleasant!!

I delivered a 10 lb 12 oz boy, at 5:15 p.m., which was no picnic, but when it was over it was over. The next day I was sitting at the computer (although I had ice on my sore bottom! - try doing that after a abdominal surgery!!)

So I guess I'm saying that a long labor doesn't have to be horrible, terrible, teeth gritting torment. It can actually be rather pleasant, enjoyable ,memorable and kind of fun!! I think a lot depends on where you are, and who you have around you.

My homebirth was *almost* painless.  I had to concentrate on the contractions, which were very intense toward the end, but I never felt what I would describe as pain during labor.  I was in pain as his head crowned, though.  But that didn't last very long.  In her notes, my midwife wrote that I "sailed through the first stage (of labor) with very little reaction to the pain."  So, I haven't forgotten what actually happened.

I have often wondered about whether every woman can have a painless or almost painless birth, too.  I attribute my good experience to being completely relaxed.  I had no mental or physical barriers while I was in labor.  I completely trusted my body and my midwife and my baby.

My two births were very different from each other but not too bad, pain-wise.  My first one was 30+ hours so I was tired, and the second one was 3.5 hours, and very intense.  Both were at home, and both were "do-able" - I never felt panicky or out of control. 

My dh is a Hypnotherapist, a Time Line Therapist and an NLP Master Practitioner. All of these things are going to help me tremendously with my birth.  However, I feel I would still have a painless birth without these things because I *believe* I will have a painless birth.  If you can convince your subconscious that there is no reason to feel the pain of birth, you wont.  I think a lot of it is fear.  That's another reason why I think so many homebirthers don't have painful births. They already have total trust in their bodies and their support system. There is very little fear there, if at all.  They wouldn't be having a homebirth otherwise.

I also like to think of marathon runners or sprinters when I think about pain tolerance.  These athletes do not realize they were feeling pain until they have finished the race.  They were 100% focused on their goal to even recognize anything else.  It's all in the head and what you believe. 

With my second birth, I attribute its quickness to my total focus on relaxation, particularly relaxation of my thighs and anything (and everything) pelvic.

The most vital thing, however, was my acceptance of and happiness about the REALLY STRONG contractions.  I knew that the stronger they were, the better they were working, and the closer I was to the birth.  Going to births while I was pregnant and looking at things from the midwives' perspective gave me this insight.  Midwives see those amazing contractions that women can barely handle as the sign of a really effective labor!  So I decided to welcome them, encourage them, and enjoy them, rather than fearing them or resisting them.

I was sitting on the couch when I felt a lot of pressure.  Thinking my water might break, I knelt on the floor next to the couch.  My water DID break but imagine my surprise when I put my fingers into my birth canal, and felt the baby's head right there!  I could have sworn I was only 6-8 cm!  I ended up catching Paxton myself since we had called the midwife too late, and dh, though he was with me, was in shock.

I believe we can talk ourselves into anything.  The brain is an amazing thing. Think about people with multiple personalities. One personality has blue eyes and the other one has brown. One personality can have cancer and the other there is no trace of it.  It all has to do with limiting beliefs. Hypnotherapy helps get rid of those limiting beliefs.

I think when labor is not progressing naturally, our bodies will respond with pain.  When a baby is laying the wrong way (posterior), our bodies will send up signals saying "hey, something is wrong here".  That's why back labor is so painful because it's not going the "right" way.   My first was posterior as I stated above and had many many symptoms of it before I went into labor.  No one told me how to fix it.  Now I know better and will do everything in my power the last few weeks to keep this baby from turning posterior.  I know what to do now. 

I completely trust the self-hypnosis theory for reducing labor pain.  For me, the biggest help I got from hypnobirthing was learning how to "breathe the baby down" which I had basically practiced from 6 months pregnant on. It then came completely naturally to me as the day progressed.

To be honest, it felt really really good to vocalize and dance that last half hour so maybe that really was just the way things were meant to be for me.  It also helped dh to see that I really was working hard. 

LOL, that happens a lot! The midwives are expecting "those sounds" and they just don't hear them from our hypnobirthing moms. That's why the baby Story missed my students birth: the midwife didn't think the mom was far along in labor at all because she was so quiet on the phone. i'm so glad your experience was a positive one! 

Personally, I don't think having a painless labor is exactly the point. I believe that childbirth is a rite of passage and one of spiritual growth, if we are open to it.  In being open to it, I think it is possible to experience a painless labor, or a very hard one, depending on what the woman would most benefit from overall.  I've given birth twice, and they were both the most intense spiritual experiences of my life.  I practice and teach kundalini yoga, and doubtlessly it prepared my mind and body to deal with the process.  I seemed to have some unique phenomena, especially this last time, when things started getting intense deep native american chanting started coming through me.  It really helped with the pain, and precisely reflected what my body was going through.  I also believe it helped the baby.  I did feel pain, but every time it was immediately balance with pleasure equal or greater.  I can't say that I would prefer it any other way.

Birth Without Drugs is Very Possible

Your comments about pain medication make me want to point out that ALL of the births that I have ever done, and all of the births of all of the midwives on this list, and across the country, that were done at home and usually in birth centers, were done without pain meds. It is very possible.

I never have moms begging to go to the hospital for pain medication (except possibly in transition, for a contraction or 2). I don't think these women are wired any differently than anyone else. They just don't want pain medication to mess up their births, get into their babies' bodies, and they don't want their senses dulled for the most glorious experience of their lives. These women still experience pain, but are well motivated. I don't think we have any magic breathing techniques either. We just stay with the moms, breathe with them, make them feel like they are not alone. We actually discourage the hee-hee hoo breathing and the focal point. Most midwives find that Lamaze breathing is not very helpful. I helped at a primip birth this week, and she was in exquisite pain for most of the day. it never occurred to us or her that she would get pain medication. Baby was born with his arm wrapped around his neck, and his elbow had been in her back, along her spine and rectum for hours. She delivered over an intact perineum. You just need to see some non-medicated births and don't buy into the theory that some women have lower thresholds, etc. From your descriptions, you are dealing with a very medical mode of "delivering" babies. Birth is safe. Birth is painful. Women have been doing it unmedicated all the way back to Eve. You need to see the look in a first time mom's eyes, when she gives birth at home after 30 hours. You need to see the look in a VBAC's eyes, when she pushes her baby into the world. (VBACs especially want to feel that experience.)

Read some good alternative books on child birth -- books with birth stories are particularly helpful. The other thing you can do to convince yourself, is to watch what happens to the moms and the babies when they are on their backs, full of drugs.

So... how about it....anyone out there love to labor and give birth ?

yeah, i did. it's not that i loved the pain, but the emotions that come with it. i believe a big part of how we feel about our births is dependent on our education about the process. birth made me feel empowered, like... from there i could do anything and i know a lot of women who have birthed unmedicated and didn't come away from it with the same positive feelings that i did, and then i'd hint around about how much education they obtained about birth and it was next to nothing. i'm not saying uneducated women are numb about birth, but it seems those who take the time to learn more are more involved and understanding and less fearful and willing to take responsibility. this goes for the partners, too.

i loved knowing that i was doing the best things for my baby, knowing it had everything going for her. Aside from all the physical benefits that come from birthing unmedicated, emotionally it's the most satisfying experience in the world. there's increased appreciation for your baby, your body, respect for yourself, and even appreciation and respect for your mate.

women are strong and grow so abundantly afterwards from making wise choices in birth. for me, my self esteem and confidence increased ten fold from my whole pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum experience because i played an active, knowledgeable role. childbirth is not about pain, it's about growth and strength in all regards.

One of the founders of obstetrics writes that women who have been properly prepared through out the prenatal period will have 'practically painless' labor without any need for therapeutics (drug or herbal remedies).

Well, the author may be dust in his grave, but I think his words still stand true! Nine tenths of the birthing process is affected by that  "preparation" period. A healthy mom with the right attitude will generally sail through labor. Complications are rare and usually easily handled.

A mom who is filled with fear and terror, is almost sure to have (or to perceive herself having) a "complicated", and painful labor.

I do think the PAIN of labor is becoming the major focus of the current generation. Most folks in the general culture I talk to are absolutely convinced that labor is the most painful experience on earth, and there is no possibility of a labor being anything less than horrific. Many of them "know" that childbirth preparation classes do not work. They know "lamaze" and other methods are useless. They "know" women will need to have drugs to handle labor.

We have a culture which forgets even the most recent past. In the 70s, during the height of the "natural childbirth movement", nearly 70% of women in hospitals in this region gave birth without drugs and reported it a "great experience"!

Women's bodies have not changed. If anything we are stronger and healthier than our predecessors. I think the PAIN of childbirth is partly media fed; partly fed by our own profession insisting on childbirth classes, labor support, doulas etc.; and certainly fed by the fear of those who never experienced childbirth! Women who have never given birth are generally certain it is a painful experience. But women who have given birth under anesthesia are absolutely convinced it is extremely painful. In fact, the better the anesthetic, the more certain they become about the pain they did not feel.

NO BODY fears the pain of childbirth more than the person who has never experienced it!

In my own family, my grandmother  gave birth without drugs. She thought having babies was not terribly distressing, though it was UNLADYLIKE! But not especially painful. My mother had general anesthetic and KNEW the pain of childbirth probably could not be survived if a woman was conscious (yeah, there is a failure of logic there). I gave birth without drugs and found moments were uncomfortable, but it wasn't such a big deal.

The women of the fifties -- those under general anesthetics and spinal anesthetics -  feared childbirth the most. Yet they never felt a thing!

Just think about this?  the hospital ladies have NOTHING to do but concentrate on the pain, whereas the home ladies have homelife, dishes, laundry meals that have to get done and they do them.  Here I have a birth center/home it is hard to distract them, I have movies, they can go shopping or clean.  A primip got down on her knees and scrubbed the kitchen floor , it sure got her labor to increase but they feel needed and productive, when you are just sitting around contracting, they feel very unproductive so I try to give them things to do like cleaning the refrigerator - I hate that job and they have to bend over a lot to do it.

Why Women Are So Afraid Labor will be Painful

Remember, these women have listened to horror stories their whole lives of labors which were forced on women and conditions which most of these fine doctors who did it would never put their own cat through.

my stepmom's family got an earful from me a couple weeks ago about this and they are now changing their tune to her. My god, isn't it still a social faux pas to talk about how god awful labor is? it damned well ought to be.

I am just so steamed at these women who go blathering about how awful labor is, NEVER MENTIONING how when they walked it was manageable, or the shower and pool were miracle workers, etc.

yea, when I was laying down on my back I was screaming for an epidural too.

I slept in the jacuzzi.

Labor Pain as Good Pain

Labor Is Good for Your Baby

Midwives Support Unmedicated Birth Because It's Better for the Baby

This is just a little something I share with my childbirth education clients about pain. It seems that everyone is bombarded with messages about pain constantly. Through the TV, things we read, just talking to people. The gist is that pain is bad and ought to be eliminated. However, there are two sides to the issue of pain. Let's imagine two people who have a lot of pain. One has just completed a marathon and her body is aching all over from the exertion and from pushing her body beyond it's normal limits. The other has just been hit by a car and has broken bones and deep tissue bruising as well as cuts and abrasions. Both are hurting quite a bit. But their experience of pain is different. The difference is the nature of the origin of the pain. In the first case, it is physiological, coming from the body doing something normal, but strenuous over of a long period of time. The other is traumatic, that is, it is caused by an injury to the body. In the first case, the body has natural responses to the pain and helps the body to recover and actually heals the body in a state better than it was before the exertion. The next time it won't be so bad, as the body is getting better conditioned. In the second case, the injury causes the pain to be more intense. The body is alerting the brain to the fact that something is terribly wrong. Healing is slow and painful, and pain relievers are a great bonus to the sufferer.

Now in relation to childbirth, we have to remember that the pain is derived from the body doing a normal activity but over a long period of time. It is like the marathon in that the muscles are used over and over again. The activity is stressful in the repetition. It is basically hard work over a long period of time. But it is work the body is uniquely designed to carry out. The pain is not pathological or traumatic, so the body can handle it on its own. Normal comfort measures and rest periods work very well. Relaxation to conserve energy is also very helpful.

I have had 7 natural births and 2 major surgeries. I can tell you from first hand experience that the nature of the pain in both cases is different. In birthing, there are things you can do to make it better. In pain caused by an injury to the body, not much you do helps for long. I was very grateful for Demerol after surgery!

Birth hurts for most of us because of the amount of work it takes to get our babies out. Sometimes it is worse than others. But if there is nothing else going on, the body can usually handle it just fine. Women don't die from the pain, though sometimes they may wish they could! I believe that pain in childbirth that cannot be helped by natural comfort measures should be looked into. There is almost always a good reason for it that can be dealt with.

Another thing I tell women is to focus on the exact nature of the pain they are experiencing. Where exactly does it hurt. What kind of pain is it, burning, or stretching or a dull ache. You know, be descriptive, so your helpers can do things to help. It is not enough to just say it hurts, you have to be specific. It helps to get completely in tune with your body both before labor and during. Shut out distractions so you can focus completely on what your body is doing.

I'd like to hear what you all teach your students/clients about 1) dealing with nay-sayers who don't believe natural birth is possible or "worth it"; 2) dealing with the disappointment after if they don't have the natural birth they want.

So how do you teach your women? What do you say to them? There seems to be such a fine line between saying "I know you can do it, generations of women before you did it, and you are just as strong as they are!" and then, if they don't do it, still encouraging them that they did "their best" (Which to me sounds almost like an insult - was that really my best? Could I really do no better than that?)

When I first began teaching Childbirth classes, I grappled with the issue of pain for the same reasons you mentioned. Pain during labor is NOT a sensation that is easily described and felt the same by every woman. For that reason, I created a handout called "Pain In Childbirth" that describes the various ways that women may experience pain during labor.

I have gotten good feedback from this handout. It helps women realize that there are different reasons/sources of pain, and that some things can be physically managed, and some CAN'T. In either event, preparing themselves both physically and emotionally can only help them when the real thing occurs.

I am a firm believer that knowledge is power, and I want the women that I have the privilege of teaching to gain as much knowledge as possible so that they can feel powerful. Does this mean they won't take pain medication? No...not necessarily. But it DOES mean that they will know other alternatives BESIDES drugs.

Teaching natural childbirth in this era of high-technology is difficult at best. Our culture does not encourage women to trust their bodies. We grew up in an age where women go to the hospital to give birth, creating an indelible impression that we cannot give birth without the assistance of doctors and machinery. Today's modern woman is horrified with the concept of homebirth, befuddled by the idea of using a midwife instead of a doctor and doesn't understand the concept of natural childbirth because THEY NEVER SEE IT ON TV OR IN THE MOVIES OR HEAR ABOUT IT FROM FAMILY MEMBERS OR FRIENDS WHO HAVE GIVEN BIRTH. Since the norm is medicated birth, a natural birth seems odd.

This is disheartening as a childbirth educator, but I try not to take it to heart. I feel that their first experience is not necessarily their LAST experience, and maybe the seeds will be planted well enough in their classes for them to try something different with the next birth. Maybe they will have more confidence in themselves because they've gone through it once. Maybe they will have learned that their girlfriend, sister, sister-in-law, cousin, neighbor, etc. DIDN'T know everything about labor and birth, and they will feel comfortable enough to try and do it their own way instead.

Importance of Kisses in Labor

Mary Finocchario, in her birth account which I printed in HAPPY BIRTH DAYS (a collection of 50 do-it-yourself homebirth accounts that I came out with in l986) she said, "We felt the Lord urging us to just love each other. Lou gave me one of his long Italian kisses. Within seconds that baby door flew open and with one huge contraction, that nearly sent me through the floor, the baby descended all the way down the birth canal and his head was ready to emerge.

I jumped up on the bed and leaned back on several pillows. With one push and several pants, the head was out. Lou supported the head and applied perineal support to ease the shoulders out on the second push. The baby cried softly at first as Lou suctioned out any mucous and I rubbed the baby's back. Then Lou placed him on my stomach and he gave several lusty cries.
Since then I discovered that saliva contains some marvelous properties that are, I suspect, useful in the experience of birth. According to J.J. Cowley, of the Department of Psychology, University College, London, some l6-androstene steroids "were discovered 20 years ago to act as male>female sex releaser pheromones in the pig..., and over the years several studies have provided evidence for pheromonal effects of one or both of these steroids in man..., although others have failed to find an effect.
In spite of their established action in rousing oestrous sows to be sexually receptive, and in spite of their MUCH GREATER CONCENTRATION IN HUMAN MALE THAN IN FEMALE...SALIVA...[emphasis mine], we lack any firm knowledge, at least in humans, about [their effects]. The mere fact that they do act as pheromones in man has, however, far-reaching implications for social behaviour.
"Human exposure to putative pheromones and changes in aspects of social behavior," JOURNAL OF STEROID BIOCHEM. MOLEC. BIOLOGY, Vol 39, No. 4B, pp. 647-659)

I'm of the opinion that the deep warm kisses that Lou gave to Mary contained a substance which facilitated the birth of their baby so that the process was neither prolonged nor overly stressful for Mary's vaginal tissues to accommodate. And furthermore, long Irish kisses and German kisses or any others are just as effective as Italian ones!

I just mention the above about kissing in case others have not learned about it. I do cover it in my new book, which is finally available. The title is PLEASURABLE HUSBAND/WIFE CHILDBIRTH: The real consummation of married love.

I also speak of the benefit of relaxin. That is a hormone which has been found to be present in human seminal plasma. This hormone softens the cervix and lengthens pelvic ligaments. So, the couple who has coitus during the early phase of labor has a much more gentle and comfortable birth experience than those who do not have the benefit of this God-designed "treatment".

I was talking with a Chicago doctor a couple of weeks ago who had been associated with LLL for many years. He said that marvelous discoveries have been made in the last 30 years about the unique and valuable properties of breastmilk. He then predicted that in the next 30 there will be just as astounding ones discovered about currently unrealized properties of seminal plasma and fluid.

I'm reminded of the rigmarole we women used to have to go through during the l950s in order to cleanse our nipples before being allowed to breast feed our babies in the hospital. In order to prepare infant formula, those working in the nurseries had to go through very precise procedures of sterilization to protect the health of the babies. And breastfeeding moms were subjected to a similar approach. There is a book by Charlotte Painter called WHO MADE THE LAMB which described it. It was rather funny. Get it if your library has it. You'll get a kick out of it.

Epidurals Numb Joy as Well as Pain

Just last night I was reading an article about epidurals which stated "At the time of birth, a woman's level of endorphins, the body's natural pain killers, are found to be 30 times higher than those in nonpregnant women. Endorphins engender feelings of pleasure and joy. Since endorphins are secreted in response to pain, it seems likely that by eliminating pain, epidurals would also abolish the endorphin response."

So it makes sense to me, if you numb the pain, you numb the joy.

Amazingly enough, the above is only true for drugs or any type of pain relief that prevents the pain signals from reaching the brain. So, for example, an epidural would prevent the buildup of endorphins. However, other methods of pain relief that work by over-riding those signals (hypnosis, massage, water) relieve the experience of suffering while still allowing the endorphins to accumulate.

Now that's the way to go!

Well, I'll tell you right now, water is a wonderful thing to help you relax in childbirth. Your plan is the same as most homebirthing couples. I think that one thing we in the natural childbirth movement don't like to say, but should, is that birth hurts. It's temporary, accomplishes a whole lot, and afterward is most likely something we'd all do again. There are some women who experience no pain at all, but they are rare birds. I have talked to women who think that because it hurt, they did something wrong (didn't relax right/ take the right vitamins or eat the right foods / didn't use the right position/ didn't do the right exercises pre-natally) All these things are factors in your pregnancy, but not necessarily in the amount/kind of pain you have in your labor. For myself, I was terrified of delivering my child's head (I mean that big old head coming through that little bitty place..ack) but in the end, that was the easiest part...transition sucked, but was over pretty fast, and after that I figured that I could do anything. Don't be scared, be prepared. After you birth your baby, you will know in your heart of hearts that there is nothing that you can't do.

Books and Newsletters about VBACs, Unassisted Birth and Pleasurable Husband/Wife Childbirth

Birth and Orgasm / Orgasmic Birth

Orgasmic Birth is a documentary that examines the sexual and intimate nature of birth and the powerful role it plays in women's lives when they are permitted to experience it.

Orgasmic Birth: Orgasms During Childbirth Are Real, Study Suggests [6/1/13]

The "legs" of the clitoris run inside the pelvic rami,  so pressure there would happen during birth.  The "legs" of the perineal sponge also run down the sides of the vagina, so pressure from a head coming through the perineum could easily cause pressure that would result in an orgasm.  [See A New View of a Woman's Body - A Fully Illustrated Guide by the Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers, pp. 33-57.]

Susie Birth's Sexual Reality contains  an essay, "Egg Sex", (p. 99) that has a nice discussion about sexuality during pregnancy and the use of a vibrator during labor.

The ejaculatory hormones that prompt your body to expel the baby during the pushing stage are the same that men have for ejaculations/orgasms (and women too but in much smaller amounts during sex). The pushing stage of birth is the only time a woman naturally has such a large amount of that hormone, which is why some women compare pushing to orgasm.

I remember reading about this in a thread last week and came across this paragraph in a book I'm reading - "Pregnancy: The Psychological Experience" by Libby Lee and Arthur D. Coleman:

"Most women find the comparison between orgasm and labor a dubious one. Even the most devoted followers of "childbirth without pain" movements will not claim that contractions are intensely pleasurable, although there are some women who may draw this analogy with the expulsion of the baby. Nevertheless, the comparison is more easily made by involved observers of the labor experience. A husband who kept a careful notebook while watching his wife in her first labor made this observation: "I kept thinking over and over that there is something positively orgasmic about the contraction - a strange. solitary, almost sexual experience." There are few other physiological events that, once begun, are automatic, involuntary, and take such complete control of all sensations."

When I gave birth the last time I felt incredible sexual arousal just as my daughter was being born. Did that happen to anyone else?

You betcha !!! I felt it for quite some time. I think that the scientific reasoning for this is that there is actually nerves in the vagina that attach to the clitoral sponge, i.e.., the G-spot. As the baby's head is passing over this spot, it arouses you, that is if you aren't too busy focusing something else.

You might also want to check out the book, Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. It has loads of women who talk about having sexual feelings during birth.

Ah, you've hit on one of my favorite topics.  Both times I've given birth I've thought that pushing and birthing felt better than the best orgasm I've ever had.  So few people agree.  I talked with Michel Odent one day at a conference and he showed a photo of a woman giving birth with the most orgasmic expression on her face.  He kind of got what I was saying, but so few people do.  Thanks for finding me another one.

Actually, this is one of my main objections to epidurals.  I can't imagine giving up that triumphant feeling just for a little pain relief. How great that this woman used the epidural in the best way possible.  She got her much needed sleep then had it removed and got on with her labor. 

I spoke to them both the other day and they both feel that not only was it a totally enjoyable experience, it was also deeply sexual for both of them. She even said that, as her baby was born, she felt like she was experiencing the best orgasm she'd ever had.


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