Saturday, January 26, 2013

Guys & Birth & Pain

There's a video circulating (somewhat like a UK one from a couple years ago), in which men are hooked up to electrical stimulation, and put through some labor 'contractions'. And make no mistake, it is pretty darn funny, because they are not expecting what they experience, at all, and they don't take it well. But is it anything like labor? Well, other than having muscles cramping tightly at intervals, not really. They don't have the mental shift that comes during labor, it is all the wrong muscle groups tightening up, and they can call a halt at any time. The most important thing missing is all the physiological chemistry that happens when a woman goes into labor. The laboring woman's body responds to the increase in oxytocin in labor by producing endorphins- which are the body's natural pain mitigators. Endorphins give us a nice fuzzy headed buzz that helps distance us from pain. Ever had a tattoo and felt lightheaded after? Endorphins. The afterglow of orgasm? Endorphins. A laboring woman who is well supported, and has a range of coping skills to instinctively draw upon, will be less likely to react to the pain of labor with fear or stress, and that will reduce the chance of triggering the fight or flight response. In FoF, our bodies actively suppress endorphins, because you don't want to be loopy if you have to either run away or kick something's butt. It also increases blood flow to the limbs... again good for running or asskicking, not so good when you have major physical work happening in the torso. FoF makes our bodies ready to respond to crisis. Unfortunately the side effect of this in labor (even if you aren't actively feeling 'afraid' or 'scared'... your body doesn't know the difference between 'omg I'm in labor!' tension and 'omg something is about to eat me!') is tension in the limbs, increased heartrate, all the signs of being really scared, which makes the pain of labor more painful, and even threatening- which increases fear, fear causes loss of endorphins which causes more pain, and so forth.

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