` Pain considered harmful — imaginary family values

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I would have thought that the pain of unmedicated childbirth has very little in common with the pain of getting woken every three hours by a crying infant, not to mention the pain of one’s plans interrupted by a pre-schooler’s fourteenth tantrum of the day, not to mention… you get the idea. And therefore, I would have thought that suffering one of these pains does not really prepare you for the others, except perhaps through the psychology of misaccounting for sunk costs.

But hey, what do I know? I’m not a university professor who is also one of the most influential midwives in Britain.

“A large number of women want to avoid pain. Some just don’t fancy the pain [of childbirth]. More women should be prepared to withstand pain,” he told the Observer. “Pain in labour is a purposeful, useful thing, which has quite a number of benefits, such as preparing a mother for the responsibility of nurturing a newborn baby.”

“Over recent decades there has been a loss of ‘rites of passage’ meaning to childbirth, so that pain and stress are viewed negatively,” said Walsh. Patients should be told that labour pain is a timeless component of the “rites of passage” transition to motherhood, he added.

Snark aside, one can certainly make a case that in general, anaesthetics are overused in labor and that patients should weigh the risks against the benefits. But replacing a foolish orthodoxy (“the more medical interventions, the better”) with a foolish counter-orthodoxy (“if you take the epidural, you’re a bad mommy”) is not progress.

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