Undisturbed and well supported birth rarely needs large quantities of chemical pain-relief. Women have enormous power to cope with labour and they can produce such high levels of ‘feel good’ chemicals during labour and birth that they simply don’t ask for pain-relief. This all sounds so alien compared with the common media image of a woman screaming for help, but the more births I see, the more I see why the picture of a woman screaming in agony is wrong, it is not how women are meant to give birth, and not only does it make it more likely that the birth will be a difficult experience, it actually makes it LESS safe, not more!
Through their understanding of birth and experience in supporting women, doulas can offer ideas and techniques for helping to minimize and to cope with pain, they help a woman to feel relaxed so that her body works efficiently and creates less pain. They can suggest (and sometimes teach) strategies, they are adept at using comfort measures and are skilled in helping women through techniques like movement and positions, massage, hypnotherapy or other complementary therapies. The more a woman works with her body, the less pain she experiences and the less medication or ‘help’ she needs! Of course pain relief has a place, and some women will need it to cope with difficult labours, but you can always try and see how labour unfolds. Most chemical pain-relief has an effect on your baby, which is why many women opt to try to minimise the amount reaching their baby.
Through confidence, trust and love, and by helping a woman’s partner offer the same, a doula can offer pain-relief which is more effective than any chemical you can give in a normal labour.
Here is a really brilliant link to an article on the concept of pain in labour.