I've blogged before about the odd things people say to pregnant women; things they wouldn't say to anyone else. This week I heard another. One of my Hippo Mummy's was asked by a (male) colleague about her hypnobirthing classes, and after hearing her enthusiasm he told her she was seriously underestimating how much pain she'd experience. (Of course, my Hippo Mummy now has plenty of skills to deal usefully with this sort of comment)
This belief that pain is simply a physical truth is inaccurate. In The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme we teach that pain is our intellectual interpretation of a physical sensation - the message our nerves pass from parts of our body to our brain. Pain is a judgement, our recognition of a sensation telling us something is happening in our body, and we need to pay attention to it. Some people find this hard to accept, and so programmes like The Wise Hippo seem unrealistic, unattainable, incredible. I've been told many times that hypnobirthing 'isn't for me - it's too hippy dippy', simply because positioned against our mainstream culture beliefs, managing pain without chemical analgesia seems unbelievable.
The good news is that it isn't just hypnobirthers and hippies who know that pain is not just a physical phenomenon.
In my other line of work I had cause to spend time with a Consultant Rheumatologist this week. His patients suffer chronic, often disabling, pain, and his job is to apply his many, many years of surgical & medical expertise to alleviate it. He does not take pain lightly. He says pain is complex, because it's not solely biological - our perception of pain is also influenced by our personal experiences & psychology and our cultural environment - the “bio-psycho-social” model. He goes on to say;
"Ultimately pain is fully integrated and perceived in the highest areas of the brain (the cerebral cortex) where the influence of learned experience, beliefs, worries, unrelated everyday stresses, hormonal effects and many other complex factors play a part in the overall perception of the pain problem."
So, there you go. Mainstream medicine does have the same understanding of pain as we hypnobirthers do. And you don't get further from 'hippy dippy' than Consultant Rheumatology surgeons. It's just our mainstream culture that hasn't caught up yet.