It’s good for women to suffer the pain of a natural birth, says medical chief

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Heidi Woodgate

Congratulations to Dr Denis Walsh, one of the UK’s most influential midwives, who spoke out saying that mother and child would benefit if the ‘epidural epidemic’ gave way to yoga, hypnosis and birthing pools.

The Guardian Observer reveals that Dr Denis Walsh, a senior midwife and associate professor in midwifery at Nottingham University, said that hospital maternity staff are too quick to offer an epidural injection or agree to a painkilling injection request from a mother in labor.

Dr Walsh insisted that labor pain is natural, healthy and temporary, but the current culture of celebrity has made pain relief for labor seem normal.

Unsurprisingly, his comments prompted a furious reaction from many quarters, but in my view this backlash only served to obsure his core messages.

Giving Birth is not a medical condition – it is a natural process.

We are designed for natural birth.

And yet the number of women having an epidural has nearly doubled, despite medical risks such as a prolonged first and second stage of labor, a heightened chance of the baby’s head being in the wrong place and lower rates of breastfeeding.

And crucially, Dr Walsh says – “in the west it has never been safer to have a baby, yet it appears that women have never been more frightened of the processes”.

In my experience, it is this fear which makes labor more painful than it needs to be – as fear causes tension which slows down the process of giving birth.


Because, in survival terms, your body (and ‘mother nature’) knows that giving birth in a ‘dangerous’ situation could be fatal to you and your baby. Fear is the alarm bell that warns the body of danger.

The thing is, your body doesn’t know you are frightened of experiencing labor pain – so a vicious circle of fear, pain and tension sets up. In other words, women experience more pain in labor than is necessary because we have been conditioned to expect it.

It doesn’t have to be like that – and whether you choose to learn birth relaxation and reduce labor pain with our Blissful Birth hypnobirthing book and MP3s, or you choose an alternative approach like HypnoBirthing or Yoga, you owe it to yourself to break that conditioning and have as relaxed a birth experience as possible for you and your baby.

Bye for now,

2 thoughts on “It’s good for women to suffer the pain of a natural birth, says medical chief”

  1. I have to say I think this would have been more influential coming from a woman. My gut instinct is to say how on earth can anyone who hasn’t experienced the pain of labour possibly comment on it. I realise that women’s experience of labour can be very different but I have had two experiences of ‘natural’ childbirth now and I have to say it is excruciating and brutal. Despite my mum telling me about her difficult experience I was convinced after a course of antenatal yoga and reading up on active birth that mine would be different but ended up having very similar experiences ie 2 episiotomies. My second birth was at home which was great afterwards but also a bit scary at one point when the ambulance was called but I was too far gone to get into it!

    I think that in these days of pain relief when we can pop nurofen for periods, have access to dentists immediately and demand anastheasia for almost any medical procedure that we just aren’t used to experiencing and dealing with pain to any degree – therefore childbirth is a shock. Its brutal and bloody and ‘natural’. I think I did experience a huge state of euphoria and achievement after the birth however the pain and subsequent infections I am convinced made me unable to breastfeed as I couldn’t even sit down.

    So I think there are a large amount of pros and cons but I really believe it should be up to each individual to express their choice. My sister had an epidural and found the birth experience to be fantastic and a truly memorable experience and went onto breastfeed so its not all bad.

  2. I was overwhelmed by the pain that the birth still was for weeks because I could not imagine this.
    But I think it did help me to realize what’s happening in the birthing process itself and it gave me a feeling of such great power to have done it all by myself.
    I knew the risks quite well – the labour pain stops the very moment the baby is out, the epidural does not as well as the pain caused by a c-section. That is a great experience!

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