A male professor of midwifery has criticised the increased use of epidurals in childbirth, and said that pain during childbirth can help mothers to bond with their children.
Denis Walsh, associate professor of midwifery at Nottingham University, writing in a paper due to be published in the journal Evidence Based Midwifery, said that pain often regulated childbirth, helping physiologically with labour, and in the production of endorphins.
‘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 told the Daily Telegraph.
He said the use of epidurals, which has doubled over the last 20 years, had effectively become on demand for mothers despite the fact that they increased medical risks during labour. Greater use of epidurals has led to more mothers needing hormone treatment to encourage contractions, and greater use of forceps to help delivery.
‘Over recent decades there has been a loss of “rites of passage” meaning to childbirth, so that pain and stress are viewed negatively,’ Professor Walsh added.
RCM general secretary Cathy Warwick said the national shortage of midwives had left mothers without a dedicated midwife leading to increased anxiety, which may have resulted in demand for more epidurals.
But she added: ‘At the moment it is very easy for most women to ask for an epidural, and if they want one they definitely should get one.’