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Can childbirth be painless?

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I read the article “Is a Painful Childbirth All in Your Head?” by Alice Grist on the Huff Post website. Grist is 6 weeks away from having her first baby and she is using hypnobirthing. She admits that she hasn’t been through the birth process yet, so she can’t answer the “pain” question personally, but she wonders how much cultural influence affects our birth experience. She writes:

Women in our highly medicalised society are ingrained to believe that birth is frightening and as they go into labour the feeling is often one of terror. This terror may have been welling in them since childhood when stories of their own birth were recounted, or from the horror tales put to them throughout their life. A pregnant woman is often not reassured by her friends gleeful recitations of tearing, cutting, blood loss, vomiting, labors that last a week and the howling screams coming from a woman in the next room.

This understandable, but culturally driven fear naturally provokes the body’s fight, flight or freeze response. All physical energy is directed away from the birthing process and a lifetime of anticipating great pain becomes true, surgery occurs, episitiotomies are dosed out, drugs are taken and birth becomes a medical traumatic situation.

What do you think? Do expectations and fears due to cultural influence make labor and delivery worse? Is it possible to have a pain-free childbirth? Can birth be empowering in our society as others experience it?

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