There are, of course, techniques, such as the epidural, to ease the pain of childbirth. However, knowing the mechanism of this pain, the role of contractions and how they make the work progress makes it easier to cope with ...
1. Why is childbirth painful?
- In the space of a few hours, your uterus must be able to dilate your cervix, so far closed like a safe. Contractions are his only "weapon". He puts all his strength into it. But, as in any extreme and repeated effort of a muscle, the contractions of the uterine muscle are painful.
- In addition, the cervix is shortened and then expands to 10 cm (at least), painful trans-formations also because it is very innervated. The muscles of the perineum finally, distended by the passage of your baby, can give the impression of being close to the tear.
2. What is the mechanism of pain?
- The contraction sends painful information to a certain category of nerve endings, the term "nociceptive" terminations (pain receptors) which transmit it to the nerve fibers which prolong them, and from fiber to fiber, it reaches the spinal cord. The latter transports it to the brain, which "digests" the information and, in return, gives rise to motor reactions that protect against pain (hands placed on the belly, but especially tension of the peripheral muscles to block to a possible danger ...). The whole circuit lasts only a few tenths of a second.
3. Is it possible to assess the intensity of the pain of childbirth?
- Pain is a sensation that is neither quantifiable nor objective. It varies enormously according to the individuals. At the same stimulus, the reactions can be very different: a woman will scream, overwhelmed by the suffering of ac-couchement, while another can easily bear it.
4. Is pain helpful for giving birth?
- Contraction is useful, not pain. Uterine contractions are equally effective in women who do not seem to feel pain.
- Except when it serves as an alarm signal (for example, when you get burned, the pain warns you that you have to move your hand away from the heat source), the pain is never helpful. Today, some specialists even think that the pain is harmful, that it can make the cervical dilation work more difficult and, above all, deprive you, because of the fatigue it causes, of your vitality and strengths that you need so much at the moment of the push.
5. Do some women have more pain than others?
- We are not all equal before the pain. Physiology: Some women have few nociceptive fibers and are therefore less sensitive to painful information. Question of self-protection: without really knowing why, some future mothers, at the time of delivery, secrete more "endomorphins", substances close to morphine that allow us to naturally fight against pain.
- Question of approach and how to apprehend the pain: the obstetricians have found that young women "prepared" to give birth and warned of what awaits them, often better support the uncomfortable sensations that are linked to it. Vocabulary question: For the same stimulus, a woman will describe her dubious as "unbearable", while another will simply speak of unpleasant sensations, refusing the term "pain".
6. Can the fear of suffering disrupt "work"?
- Without a doubt. This fear puts you on the defensive. Your body is stretched, twitches appear. Your heart rate is accelerating, forcing you to breathe faster. The resulting hyperventilation causes a drop of calcium and magnesium in your blood, which itself causes the secretion of oxytocin (the hormone that promotes contractions).
- Not to mention that fear secretes another hormone: adrenaline, which not only prevents the production of endomorphins, but above all delays the work. Your uterine muscle stimulated on the one hand, slowed down on the other, works incoherently, without effectiveness. It also takes care of toxins resulting from your muscular fatigue and becomes more and more painful.
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