Stop Glorifying ‘Normal’ Vaginal Delivery At The Cost Of Women’s Pain & Trauma!

“All the pain and trauma will vanish as soon as you see the baby’s face,” women are told. Thus, the entire traumatic vaginal delivery event is sugar coated, overly romanticised.

We glorify vaginal delivery, even calling it ‘normal’ delivery as against say, a C section which can be a choice, shaming women who opt for it.

I was throwing up all through the process and was continuously screamed at to push with all my strength. I was getting tired. And the nurses were trying to push the baby out by putting pressure and pressing my stomach. It was 6 hours of terrible pain and torture!”

“The most painful part of labor for me was the crowning. It is a burning feeling.”

“My labor was really painful and intense.”

“I preferred a caesarean section, much to the annoyance of my consultant. Up to the last minute they tried to convince me to have a vaginal birth. I resented it because they made me feel I couldn’t make decisions about my body.”

“The contractions hurt so bad you feel like you’re dying, then comes the pressure and need to push. I was writhing around on the bed like I was possessed by a demon, begging someone to get me some drugs. I know at one point I asked the nurses if I was going to die and they just laughed, which infuriated me. I was totally a cliché preggo from the movies screaming my head off.”

“I went full-on exorcist and sat up and shrieked at the doctor, ‘Get this thing out of me now!’ I made sounds that I had never heard myself make before. I know that a lot of women think natural childbirth is a beautiful thing, but there was nothing about it that was beautiful to me. Nothing could have prepared me for that type of hell. I still have nightmares and flashbacks. If I ever do decide to have another baby, then I can assure you I will never do it naturally again.”

“I was seething in pain while I was asked to push. I got so tired that finally they had to use forceps to pull out the baby.  And the episiotomy! I had to undergo episiotomy (An episiotomy is a cut (incision) through the area between your vaginal opening and your anus) after which the doctor stitched me up but that too was very painful, I am facing the repercussions even today after 15 years!”

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Stories of women who have had ‘normal’ vaginal delivery or ‘sugha prasavam’

These are all stories of women who have had ‘sugham prasavam’.  A term coined in South India for ‘normal/ non-interventional/ vaginal delivery’.

Let’s dissect the term to understand its meaning, Sugham is easy/ happy/ smooth/ joyous and prasavam is delivery/labour. According to society ‘normal’ non-interventional, vaginal delivery is ‘sugham’.

Now go figure the term ‘sugham’ in the above stories!

With this term people have achieved the paradoxical effect of making the painful and traumatizing experience of childbirth, trivial. The process is glorified and made to feel divine in a bid to silencing women. It is all done under the garb of society’s norm of projecting women as the forbearing & sacrificial epitome.

In addition to this term, south India also uses the term, ‘nondhu prasavikkanam’, as in ‘delivery should be painful’ (hidden meaning – ‘bearing pain is the true essence of motherhood’!!) This a classic example of how society associates the amount of pain and discomfort a woman has endured, to the value of motherhood.

We actively shame women who choose options other than ‘normal’ vaginal deliveries

Not only in South India, but I am also sure all over India, there are as many creative jargons as these that are used, to make women’s lives miserable. “All the pain and trauma will vanish as soon as you see the baby’s face,” women are told. Thus, the entire traumatic vaginal delivery event is sugar coated, overly romanticised.

In fact, certain bodily wounds post labour doesn’t heal throughout one’s lifetime. They are like those lingering wounds reminding you every time of the war you fought many years ago to bring forth the little human out of your body.

Women are belittled on their physical capability and pain threshold. Women who have had ‘normal’ vaginal deliveries are celebrated thus, scorning those who choose interventional/ C section deliveries including epidurals. Because the chief role of a woman is childbearing and rearing. Equating a woman’s pain threshold to the value of motherhood is quite sinister!

Why choice matters in deciding the kind of delivery a woman goes through

Many women gloat over their multiple ‘sugham prasavams’ while belittling women, who exercise reproductive rights.

Patriarchy is so steeped in society that women themselves do not know their rights. It is her right to choose the mode of labour as it is the woman’s body that is involved. Yes, with a mutual and fair discussion with the professionals involved and her partner. But ultimately the choice is hers.

“She should be able to feel that she is in control of what is happening to her and able to make decisions about her care, based on her needs, having discussed matters fully with the professionals involved.” This is rightly quoted in the study – Why Choice Matters – Improving the Experience of Maternity Care.

Conclusions of this study are that women’s positive and negative recollections of their birth experiences are related more to feelings and exertion of choice and control than to specific details of the birth experience.

As quoted in the thesis ‘The Impact of Choice and Control on Women’s Childbirth Experiences’ in the The Journal of Perinatal Education – “their choices in decision making, how much they are in control, social support, and their tolerance of pain management are all factors that impact a women’s birthing experiences.”

Biologically her body is chosen for it, hence the reproductive choices should lie with her.

I seek a utopian society where everyone including health care professionals need to be empathetic and respectful to a woman’s body and her choices.

Today she is educated, rational, woke & has progressed; so has science. Hence, she can choose a less painful process of bringing her baby in to this world. Let her decide the story of her ‘sugham prasavam’!

Author’s note: The labor stories are real stories extracted from a few articles as well as personal experiences.

Image source: Sanjasy on pixabay

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About the Author

Rekha Sriram

During the emergency in India when life was fraught with tension, I was born, a female child. After a long stint of 15 years in the corporate world in the HR field, I got involved read more...

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