Pain in Labor - a Midwife's View Under Fire

I hadn't heard about Midwife Dr. Denis Walsh until I was looking up current childbirth news this morning (one of the sad byproducts of working M-F; I can only 'research' on the weekends).

And what I see is astounding and saddening.

He has submitted a work to Evidence Based Midwifery that discusses the topic of pain in labor and it's purpose. You can read an article on it here, another here, and another on it here.

I applaud him. He, as far as I can see, has not written anything malicious or inaccurate. He talks about the usefulness of feeling labor, the chemicals released as a result, establishing a good labor pattern, aids in stronger infant-maternal bonding, and generally has a natural purpose in the process.

Nothing that has not been mentioned already in other articles like this and this. He even states that sometimes epidurals are useful, but of course, one of the articles above states that his comments make women who fall short of a 'normal birth' feel stigmatized.

The rest of the articles are followed up with statements such as "I dare him to say that to a woman in labor", "When he pushes a baby out of HIS body, maybe we'll give a damn what he has to say!", and more, much more. Defensive, aren't we? Do a google search for his article and you will find him slammed from all angles (or see Rixa's post for additional links to more articles on him) - it's a free for all!

Think of it: he's a man (sets him up for attacks from prideful, defensive, or angry women), he's a midwife (which sets him up for attacks from the main-stream medical community), and he's a male midwife (which even sets him up for failure in many natural childbirth communities).

It amazed me to see that this poor man has been strung up like a pinata from both the Obstetrical community as well as feminists. Even some fellow midwives didn't spare the firing squad. And you know what, all of this hubbub and no one actually has his submission piece yet!

Which is why I was relieved to see this blog post.
Denis Walsh is not the slimy pig-man who’s out to demonize women who choose pain relief, as the Daily Mail (or the BBC, for that matter) would have us believe. He’s a midwife who wants midwives to act as advocates for women: to put the needs of the labouring woman on the map, rather than letting the midwive’s own needs as professionals or the the baby’s (purported) needs push all mention of the woman’s well-being out the window. I, for one, am very thankful I’ve read his work in preparation for the birth of my second child.
I applaud his yet-to-be published piece and cannot wait to read it! From what I can see on the news now, he advocates alternative pain management options to better healthier, safer health care options for women in labor - evidence based health care. What shame is there in that? None. Shame on the nay-sayers instead!

*** Additional linkies here and here.


Kayce Pearson said...

Finally, a piece that isn't slamming him!!

Thank you so much!!

I had wondered why so many people were bashing him for saying pain in labor has a purpose. It does!!

This man is being bashed for no reason besides the fact he is a male midwife, which are two strikes against him in the world of birth. So what if he hasn't pushed a baby out? Neither did Grantley Dick-Read or Robert Bradley! They weren't cursed at and such. No, they changed the way we view labor and delivery.

Great post!

Deb said...

thanks for sharing the article. I had heard some buzz about it, but had not read it yet.

I find it extremely refreshing to hear a man support natural childbirth. About a year ago, I was attending a birth as a labor support doula and one of the doctors brought out a book he wrote on the glory of anesthesia. (mind you- this was in the middle of the woman's labor) He continued to bash those that supported natural birth. I would love to see these to care providers fight it out!

Jenn said...

Thanks for the fresh perspective, I've been reading all the bashing and wondering what the problem was. I agree that pain is useful.

I think sometimes what is said (written) and what is heard are two different things.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Kelly said...

I am an aspiring midwife, soon to be midwife assistant student. Kudos for posting something positive about his article. Those that are bashing him are just doing it to have someone to bash on. Pain in childbirth does have a purpose and I say that from a mom of 2. I applaud Midwife Walsh for stepping up to the plate for all women.

Anonymous said...

Nice Post

Marion said...

Dennis is one of the few true male Midwives ive ever met.. he was my tutor and sometimes a mentor when i trained to be a Midwife.
He continues to be a positive contributor to the beleif that pregnancy and birth should be embraced... and not feared.
Even as a prolific writer and lecturer, he still continues to practice sensitively and has continued to support me through my 'down' times as an Independent Midwife in the UK


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