Benefits, rewards and challenges of experiencing the physical process of birth

Here are excerpts from the speech that Teresa gave at the La Leche League Annual Conference 2001 in Atlanta, GA

Labor of Love

A loving look at the benefits, rewards and challenges of experiencing the physical process of birth.

“The view of labour pain as an affliction seems most prevalent among western women. In many cultures pain in labor is accepted as necessary. Perhaps the fact that these women are usually cared for by other women, who understand birth and it’s mysterious benefits for the female psyche, is the central reason why pain is not feared but accepted.”- A. Robertson

“Pain in labor is seen as a blight, an unnecessary imposition, an affliction we must bear as the price for bearing children. This view bolstered by the perception that pain is a symptom of disease and illness has enabled men to convince us that pain is indispensable during birth and is of no value, an evil to be cured with modern treatments and technology.” –A. Robertson

“ Many western women have never been physically tested until we go through labor and birth …haven’t gone 18 or 24 hours without food or sleep…allowed ourselves to go a day or 2 without a bath or shower, without brushing our teeth and doing our hair and makeup. Even fewer of us would allow anyone else to see, smell or touch us, unwashed, sweat-soaked, naked, oozing mucus, blood, and feces from our nether regions. When faced with the forces of labor, we can’t hide the fear, the anxiety, the responses to pain…All the inhibitions and trappings of our social selves are peeled away as our bodies thrust and heave, vomit and grunt, cry and leak. The animal is there for everyone to see”- S. Diamond

Pain Coping Mindset

  • No pain, no gain- why does this work in other areas of our life but not here, or does it?
  • Preparation mentally, emotionally and physically is needed
  • Surrounding yourself with examples- where do I find them today?
  • Warriors stand up and fight- back up plans- doing the next best thing thinking
  • Benefits to painTriggers the knowledge that labor has begun- time to find a safe place to retire while the process unfolds
  • Feedback as to the stage of labor
  • Alert mechanism for problems and special needs
  • Releases endorphins
  • Guides the mom in positions to choose
  • Guides the feedback loops that tell nerves to transmit to other parts of the body


  • Releases natural pain killers
  • Creates a sense of well being and promotes positive feelings
  • Link to mother baby attachment- increasing bonding ability
  • Self esteem and confidence enhances with feelings of achievement and satisfaction
  • Amnesic effect


  • Signals fight or flight mechanism
  • Subconscious fears can trigger
  • Raises blood pressure
  • Causes a sense of panic
  • Slows contractions
  • Decreases oxytocin
  • Increases pain
  • Counteracts dilation of muscles

Why Natural or Unmedicated?

  • Empowerment- labor is hard work, it hurts and you can do it – a willingness to try- I can do anything attitude
  • Passing on a legacy to our daughters
  • A rite of passage learned no other way

Rites of Passage

  • Puberty
  • Making Love
  • Birthing
  • Breastfeeding
  • Menopause

Pros to Natural birth

  • Less interventions mean less complications
  • No catheter- less UTIs
  • Let’s keep moving- a baby in a bad position- let’s move the mom
  • No drug reactions
  • No out of body experiences- birthing in awareness
  • Recovery- ready to enjoy the new family

While pregnant we are told to avoid drug use and then in labor we are eagerly offered them. Many women will find that labor pain is bearable if it means better health for the baby. The desire to avoid drugs may necessitate women once again accepting that pain may be a necessary component to birth.

Advantages to Baby

  • Alert and ready to nurse
  • No drug reactions
  • Less chance to have to go to NICU
  • No sepsis workup for epidural fevers
  • Less drugs mean less complications
  • No delay in the labor/birth process
  • Mom and baby alert together- bonding

Disadvantages of Natural

  • An exception to the rule- what! – No drugs- why?
  • It hurts and it is hard work- is there value to the pain?
  • Do you have support?- Why do I feel so alone?
  • My support can’t stand to see me in pain


What do you need to birth?

  • To feel nurtured and protected
  • To feel safe and have a safe place to birth


The right place to give birth would be the right place to make love.” –Michel Odent


So How Do You Prepare?

  • Books- how many and which ones?
  • Birth plans- a help or a hindrance?
  • A living birth plan
  • Protecting your minds
  • Learning to listen to your instinctive voice
  • Childbirth classes- which ones?
  • Pain coping techniques that work

Birthing Instinctively

  • Trust your body
  • Forget learned patterned breathing
  • Follow instinctive behavior
  • Get good labor support
  • Avoid induction or augmentation

“Women are tricked into believing that a managed, predictable labour is not only desirable, but safer for themselves and their babies.” “Have we placed our faith in medical men when we should have had more faith in ourselves and found female companionship for labour and birth?” –A. Robertson

Protecting Your Birth Space

  • Preparing the space- what makes me feel safe?
  • Addressing the fears ahead of time
  • Environmental controls, privacy
  • Reduction of people, things and procedures
  • No negative languages, behaviors or people with anxiety
  • Avoid conversation- keep a woman in laborland

Virtually all women have the potential to give birth easily and safely and no special knowledge or learning is required.” –A. Robertson


“Part of the increase (in using doulas) stems from the fact that the consumer is taking back birth into their own hands and wants to be a part of the decision process. Also, it is a natural instinct to gather the right kind of support around you.”-Ridd-Young

Doulas- Why do I need one?

Who can be my doula? Mothering the mother

Four women often unaccompanied by knowledgeable support people, and made vulnerable by their emotional and hormonal state are ripe for seductive messages conveyed by “experts? That labour pain has not benefit.”A. Robertson

Doula Studies

Promises promises- what can she really do?

  • 25% shorter labors
  • 60% reduction in epidural requests
  • 40% reduction in pitocin use
  • 30% reduction in analgesic use
  • 40% reduction in forceps use
  • 50% reduction in cesarean births

“Your heart and hands are the most important. If someone’s not certified, they’re not necessarily less qualified.”-Guralnick

“Good doulas make fathers feel more involved and more useful at a stressful time.”-Guralnick

Dads- what help are they really?

Men have not experienced the innate birthing instincts since they don’t give birth- this may make them more uncomfortable with woman in labor.

What role do they feel comfortable with?

  • The pitfalls of being a labor coach
  • How do I help him to prepare?
  • Find someone to help support him as well.

Doctors and midwives- are they really different?

Average doctor visit is 6 minutes- midwives on average are twice that.