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Pregnant women 'losing rites of passage' through epidural use

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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.’

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I find it incredicably difficult to consider the opinions of a man who will never experience pregnancy and childbirth. I would argue that the bonding process starts in the womb, and continues throughout life. Why should childbirth have to be a more painful process than necessary. Analgesia is offered for every other procedure. If childbirth is supposed to be painful, should we therefore not allow men more than two paracetamol when they have a vasectomy?

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  • REA MULLIGAN

    I agree with you Caroline, I was reading this, in the back of my mind, I was questioning whther as a man, he can comment on this fully as it hardly through his own experience and although part of me agreess with what he's saying, I feel that women should have all the best available help and if it means they want an epidural during birth, then they should have it. If we can create such gems to aid the mother-to-be in the birth with something that might heighten the complications of childbirth, thenm we surely have trained staff to deal with any difficulties that arise.
    Go forth and have babies with or without an epidural, its her choice.

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