"It's important to realize that the pain and stress of normal labor are part of what keeps this natural process on track. Here's why you should think twice before trying to eliminate pain:
- The stress hormones produced in response to labor pain help protect your baby against hypoxia (insufficient oxygen) during labor, as well as preparing its lungs for breathing after it is born.
- 'Pain guides the mother. Commonly, the positions and activities she chooses for comfort are also those that promote good labor progress or help shift the baby into the right position for birth. Remove the pain, and you kill that feedback mechanism.'
- Removing pain also severs other feedback loops vital to normal labor and birth. 'Nerves in the cervix, and later the pelvic floor muscles and vagina, transmit stretching sensations as well as pain. These stretch receptors signal the pituitary to produce more oxytocin, which increases the tempo of the labor, causing further cervical dilation .... and the urge to push .... Numb the nerves with an epidural, and you also wipe out the positive feedback mechanism.' "