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Mode of birth linked to memory of labour pain

Wednesday December 10th, 2008

A woman is most likely to forget her labour pains if her overall experience of giving birth is good, researchers said today.

Often the memory of labour pain reduces over time, but for some women it increases. Professor Ulla Waldenstrom and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, examined figures on 1,383 women who gave birth in 1999. Five years on, the women completed questionnaires on their memories of the birth.

Nearly half (49 per cent) of the women remembered birth as less painful than when they rated it two months after the birth. Just over a third (35 per cent) rated it the same, but 16 per cent rated it as more painful.

Results appear in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The authors report that women who reported labour as a positive experience two months after birth had the lowest pain scores after a year and after five years.

Women who rated their childbirth as negative or very negative were more likely to rate their pain the same, but women who had epidurals remembered pain as more intense. This may be because the pain was more intense in the first place, say the experts, or it may be that the women primarily remembered the pain just before the epidural was given.

Pain memories were also influenced by the woman's overall satisfaction with her labour, explains Professor Waldenstrom.

She said: "The findings show that there is great individual variation, and that a woman's long-term memory of pain is associated with her satisfaction with childbirth overall.

"The more positive the experience, the more women forget how painful labour was."

Waldenstrom, U. and Schytt, E. A longitudinal study of women's memory of labour pain: from 2 months to 5 years after the birth. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2008.

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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