Goshen News, Goshen, IN


November 11, 2012

WHOLE FAMILY: Going ‘natural’ doesn’t equal masochism


SO, WHEN SOMEONE calls you a “natural birth Nazi” or worse, he or she might say, “You’re just a masochist. Not me. I don’t like the pain.” It’s a strange argument, usually undergirded by one’s own insecurity, to suggest that people like me — normal, natural proponents — are masochists.

Ask my own birth attendants and they’ll tell you: Steph did not like the pain. In fact, she used some colorful terminology toward it, words we didn’t know she knew.

Here’s the BUT, though, the point: Most childbirth pain is normal, natural. Because it is so, it really is — usually — manageable. In fact, at the risk of being called a masochist, normal, natural childbirth pain is  good.

I’ve been preparing a talk for fellow nursing students, a talk I dub loosely, “Natural Childbirth.” In preparing what to say, this struck me:

Most health-care workers, nurses especially, are taught two things about pain: One, pain is pathology; and two, pain must be stopped, usually via medication.

It’s likely at least the former is true for most situations: Pain is, commonly, evidence of something wrong. Could be outright trauma, nerve troubles (“neuropathy”), some sort musculoskeletal misalignment. Even a simple deficit like malnutrition or low blood sugar can cause pain. Whichever woe causes the pain, it usually is that — a woe.

But check this out. Childbirth is not a woe, not usually. Childbirth pain is not pathological. It is supposed to be there. It’s normal, natural, yes, but not all that common in a life span of 80 years to push 7 pounds of baby through a tiny space that has to contract and stretch in great proportions.

So it hurts. Childbirth hurts. And it’s OK.

A pain assessment is considered, these days, to be a vital sign finding, as in we students nurses are taught to always ask our patients, “Are you in pain?” And if the answer is yes? We’re taught — most times — to check for what medications we might be able to administer.

“Alternative” methods to pain relief — say, dimming the lights or reducing sound or relaxation exercises — sometimes get a nod from health-care workers, but that’s usually because it’s just too soon to give another Tylenol.

Because I’m early in my nursing career, I don’t yet know yet about patients with chronic — or even acute — pain. I’ve read just a little and realize pain management is an holistic and worthwhile discipline in and of itself. To those who suffer from chronic pain: You have my sympathies — perhaps my care one day — and not my criticism of  how you handle it. I’m counting on you to educate me.

But I do know about childbirth pain, both having felt it and witnessed much of it in others, and I can tell you we would do well to leave it in a category of its own and not treat it the same way we treat trauma pain or chronic pain.

So next week I’ll go a little further and write about how to manage childbirth pain without Pharmacia. You might be surprised how simple — normal, natural — it is.

Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at wholefamily@goshennews.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”


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