Male midwife: women should endure labour pains

Pain of giving birth may be there for a reason and bring gain for child-rearing, claims male midwife

The pain involved in a childbirth without modern drugs serves a purpose and more women should go through it in order to prepare themselves for the responsibility of bringing up a baby, according to senior midwife, Dr Denis Walsh.

In an article for the journal Evidence Based Midwifery, published by the Royal College of Midwives, Dr Walsh argues that normal birth is in danger of being ‘effectively anaesthetised by the epidural epidemic.’

Dr Walsh, an associate professor in midwifery at Nottingham University, said: ‘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.’
 
He says that some women these days, ‘just don’t fancy’ the pain of childbirth, and that a widespread ‘antipathy to childbirth pain’ has emerged in the past 20 years with almost all hospitals now offering epidurals on demand as a result.

Instead, he argues, the NHS should take a ‘working with pain‘ approach and encourage women to try natural methods such as yoga, hypnosis, massage, hydrotherapy and birthing pools to  alleviate the pain.

Official figures show that the number of mothers receiving an epidural has soared from 17 per cent in 1990 to 33 per cent in 2008.

Dr Walsh said 20 per cent of epidurals are given to women who do not need them and that ‘Emerging evidence [shows] that normal labour and birth primes the bonding areas of a mother’s brain better than caesarean or pain-free birth‘.

However many doctors think he is exaggerating. Dr Justin Clark, a senior obstetrician and gynaecologist at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, rejected Dr Walsh’s claims, telling the Telegraph: ‘Epidurals  aren’t overused. In the main they’re a good thing and almost always necessary… It would be wrong to suggest that modern women are somehow less stoical than in the past.’

And Cathy Warwick, the Royal College of Midwifery‘s general secretary, said that it was the lack of one-to-one personal care from a midwife, that was causing mothers to be to create the ‘unnecessarily high’ incidence of epidurals.

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