I’ve heard people say that labour can’t be that bad because women do it multiple times. Wrong! – Labour is that bad, we just forget… until we remember, and by that time the baby is ready to meet the world.
But do mums really forget the pain of labour? Have I just made a grand assumption in an effort to explain why women are in fact prepared to have more than one child?
The truth of the matter is that there are women who have terrible pregnancies and a horrible labour experience and are put off having children thereafter – many mums have told me this very thing.
A study by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has revealed that five years after giving birth, 49 per cent of women remember the experience as being less painful that they thought it at the time.
The study examined over 1,000 women over a five year period, asking them to rate the pain associated with labour on a scale from 1-7 (1 being the least painful and 7 being the most painful) a couple of months after giving birth – the same women were asked the same question five years later.
So what about the other 51 per cent? Well, just over a third (35 per cent) rated the birth experience the same, but 16 per cent rated it as more painful.
It thus seems safe to say that most of us do in fact forget just how painful labour was. That said; most women are having at least their second child within a five year period after their first baby. Meaning… a little bit of pain doesn’t stop us?
The truth of the matter is that expert knowledge relating to the memory of labour pain is quite limited.
Interestingly, the aforementioned study also found that the way the women evaluated their labour was influenced by their perception of the birth experience. In other words; women who reported labour as a positive experience after two months also had the lowest pain scores after one year and five years. Women who rated their childbirth as negative were more likely to rate their pain the same, and women who had epidurals remembered pain as more intense – as reported by Jane Collingwood from PsychCentral.
The only thing I offer is what I know based on my own experience. I have two daughters, born two years apart and I remember (when we were thinking about having another baby) intellectually knowing that labour was horrendous (although I did have a positive labour experience overall I’d say) but it was not enough to deter the desire for another child – by any means. Only when I was actually in labour the second time did I feel and remember accurately just how horrendous it is.
The thing is, when considering the lifespan of a human being, labour is a very small part of that (it’s terrible when you’re in it but the intensity of the experience usually fades) – and the end result is worth it. That is, I think, why we do it over… and over.
What do you think? Did you have a positive or negative labour experience – did it make you think twice about a second (or third) child?