Friday, November 2, 2012

Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle

As of tomorrow, our pregnancy is technically "full-term" medically speaking, although I have three more weeks until our due date.
We attended our last childbirth/childcare education class last night.
Since we both worked/work in the medical profession in a very large medical community, I was shocked how few medical professionals will go to prenatal education classes because they "pretty much know how it will go."  Several nurses and doctors in my midwife group refused to go to classes and then felt nervous toward their due dates because they didn't know what to expect, hadn't visited the birth center, didn't know what a birthing ball was, etc.

I am so grateful that I was provided childcare both for last night's breastfeeding class and for our natural pain management six-week class.

It always keeps me mindful of the many women I met in Ethiopia who don't get prenatal education.

In prenatal education there is something called the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle.  Essentially, the less educated about childbirth a pregnant woman is or the more misconceptions about childbirth there are, there will be more fear.  The fear will cause physical tension in the body, which will send "bad" hormones (instead of relaxants) to the pain receptors, which produce more pain.  When the woman experiences more pain, it reinforces her fears, she becomes more fearful, and it is an endless cycle.

This is as true in America with people who choose to educate themselves solely based on what they read on the internet (or God forbid, TV shows) as it is in Ethiopia.  The Fear-Tension-Pain cycle can only be prevented by proper prenatal education and a supportive network.

Every time I think about this, I wonder about Million's birth mom's level of prenatal education.  Did she go through the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle?  Or was she well equipped?  It leaves me so humbled and so grateful that I have the privilege to not only be educated, but to CHOOSE to be educated.  I've mentioned on here a few times that a lot of what we've chosen with our pregnancy (to not overeat, to continue in levels of semi-strenuous physical labor, to have a nonmedicated childbirth with as little medical assistance as possible) were intentionally chosen so that I can understand in some minute way the woman who birthed my son.  I've been chided on a few occasions for this ideal.

People have told me that I am depriving my second son of a "unique birth experience" by focusing on my first son's.  I don't feel this is true.  My second son will be born in a "state of the art" birthing facility.  I will have access to clean, uncontaminated, water at whatever temperature I desire.  I have many non-pharmaceutical "tricks in my bag", so to speak.  I can pick and choose how much privacy I will have (until being transferred to postpartum, when all the privacy goes out the window.) My second son will have a unique birth experience, because he will be my first birth child.  I will never have another first birth child.

I'm often asked if I'm ready for childbirth.  Yes and no.  If I'm asked in a way that implies "are you just so ready to get this baby out?" it's a no.  I can endure this for a while longer, and it's an inconvenient time right now with some orders left open in our business and with Million needing a little more parental involvement these days.  If I'm asked in a way that is addressing more fears and physical preparations, it's a yes.  I can honestly say, I'm not afraid of the pain.  We've got everything set up (except for my bag isn't packed yet.) I'm not anxious about the unknowns.  The only things I tend to worry about are what time of day it will happen and how it will affect Million's time spent with my parents. (And if I'll need to pick Michael up from work...and who will feed the dog, etc.) Logistics are the only things I worry about, when I do worry.

If you're interested at all in helping relieve some of the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle in women in Ethiopia, I would heartily recommend looking into the organization Because Every Mother Matters.  If you're not able to help financially, or simply uninterested in Ethiopia, look for some ways you can help with prenatal education locally.  Is there a pregnant teenager in your life who could use some prenatal guidance?  Direct her to quality medical professionals.  Is there a shelter for battered and abused women in the area?  Ask them if they need books about pregnancy (you can always find them at thrift stores, and generally the information doesn't change THAT much.) Is there an adoption agency or pregnancy care center in your area for impoverished women?  Donate your used clothing, make rice socks for pain relievers, or see if they need office supplies.  See what you can do to spread awareness and try to eliminate this cycle.

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