Friday, October 16, 2009

He's in labor! (Or at least it feels like it)

"Women have a higher pain tolerance than men; that's what allows them to go through labor and childbirth!"

You've probably heard that. Many researchers, though, say that it's not true. But it's a difficult subject to study. (How does one accurately quantify pain level or tolerance?)

Well, an Australian TV show, What's Good For You, set out to find out if a man was strong enough to handle unmedicated labor. Of course, with that goal in mind, there is one tiny little obstacle--how do you get a man pregnant? Instead of recreating Junior, they used electrical stimulation to contract Andrew Rochford's abdominal muscles, simulating labor contractions. The results were fascinating. Watch for yourself.

I'm going to give a spoiler here, so if you haven't watched it yet, you've been fairly warned.

After about 3 1/2 hours of "labor," Mr. Rochford was done. The pain was just too much, and of course he wasn't about to get an epidural for simulated labor, though I think he'd reached the point where, if he'd really been in labor, he might have been begging for an anesthesiologist!

So does this prove that women have a higher pain tolerance than men? I have my own opinions, but I'd like to hear yours first. Please weigh in, using the Comments below. I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

By the way, my labor with Chickie was induced in a hospital, and I had an epidural. I had a natural childbirth (in a birthing tub) at a birthing center with Zoodle. If you'd like to read about my unmedicated childbirth experience, check out this post.


Angie said...

I think pain tolerance differs from person to person. It's possible he has a low pain threshold, or a medium one. I've been told my pain tolerance is rather high. I'm not sure I would say that all men couldn't go through labor. Paige's birth was induced, but my epidural only numbed my left leg. Definitely not where contractions are. I did fine to the point that I think when we have another one I won't get the epidural at all. Why bother?

Autumn said...

Very few people will ever have to go through what I did with my second child. Some people say childbirth is the same as passing a kidney stone.... I got to do both at the same time. (Not fun) We discovered the kidney stones when I was 3 months pregnant with Jessica. There were two of them, the largest of which was the size of a nickel. I passed the first one, but the second got stuck somewhere along the way and nothing the doctors did would help ease the pain of a stuck kidney stone. Jessica kicking around in my abdomen didnt help either. Anytime I hear someone say "You have no idea how much pain I'm in" I just reality they have no idea how much pain I've had to handle.

(By the way, the pregnancy went as best as could be expected though they did have to do a c-section really early because I developed a kidney infection. Jessica wound up being 7 and a half weeks early, spent 2 weeks in the NICU but was overall a very healthy baby. 4 weeks after I gave birth to Jessica I went in for "emergency" surgery to have the stones - my body developed a total of 33 stones before it was all said and done - removed.)

Unknown said...

I think that you turned this video into a nice post that will get you a lot of interesting responses. The pain of labor is something most men will never understand but I can't say that women have a higher threshold for pain than men. I think women's bodies are made to give birth so they are naturally able to deal with the pain and endurance needed for labor. Would we be able to handle the same intense pain in other situations? I don't know.

Christina Barkley said...

I personally think it is a dumb experiment since the simulation is as close as one could get to recreating the sensation of a contraction (I suspect), but it'll never be exactly the same (obviously).
There are just too many variables to try to make an accurate comparison.
Not to mention, it looked like he spent most of his time "laboring" flat on his back - which most women know is an absolute nightmare when laboring without pain medication.
My other observation (in utter shock & horror) was the doctor's comment that the gas while in labor was not harmful to the baby "at all". Oooooook, lady....whatever you say.
But, I guess I'm not that shocked to hear her say that....isn't that what they always tell women in labor as they are being given their pain medication????

Call Me Cate said...

(Disclaimer - couldn't watch the video because I'm at work so if I'm way off-base, I apologize)

I think when it comes to pain tolerance, most people endure what they have to and don't endure what is avoidable. Knowing he could have this pain stop at any moment, he went on for awhile and then just said - can't (don't want to) do it anymore, turn it off. If this hadn't been an experiment, he probably could've/would've endured longer. No choice.

So I don't know that the experiment is really a good measure. I've endured horrible migraine pain because I haven't had a choice. Believe me, if this had been a simulated migraine to just "see what it was like", I would've told them to turn it off hours before I ended up in the emergency begging for injections to bring relief. I've certainly reached the point with pain that I didn't want to bear it anymore but it just wasn't an option.

Hope that made sense and fits with the video based on your description. Regardless of being an equivalent test, it sounds really interesting and I'm going to watch it when I get home this evening.

beckiwithani said...

I think Call Me Cate's answer is really good.

SurvivorBlessing said...

It was interesting to watch.... but I do agree with most here, that it was just an experiment knowing the machines can be turned off at any time. Going through real labor, your only relief is birth - birth topping the pain during labor - and he didn't even get there!
Also, I agree in saying that everyone has different pain levels. Whatever we have to deal with, we do! I am a person that only takes meds when I absolutely can not deal with it any longer... talking about just Tylenol, or stronger stuff after major surgery! Not fun....
But I know for sure that my husband, a man, has his pains where others would not be able to handle them. I know for a fact that he has an idea of what women go through.... he just has to live with it every single day - birth is over in what? 24-48 hours! Or for that matter, if the pregnancy is real bad, 9 months!

Gina said...

I also agree with the above comments. We (as woman) can endure 12 hrs of labor because we have to. If we had a choice we'd turn the pain off after 3 hrs also! I don't think it's a matter of men vs women. Pain tolerance is individual vs. individual. Some people are better equipped mentally to deal with pain where others are not.

2cats said...

My husband has such a high tolerance for pain, that I think he could go through labor. He never ever complains of any pain. Even pain that would send me to my knees.
Having said that, I on the other hand would never go through labor again. If a doctor could have guaranteed me a c-section I would gladly have had another child. But none would, so I only have 1 child. I could not withstand the pain of 16 hours labor before an emergency c-section brought my son into this world.
C-section in the only way to go in my book. But maybe not for men, or at least my husband.

LEstes65 said...

I think it's different, person to person. I can take almost any kind of pain (albeit, very whinily) except nerve pain. Like tooth or back nerve pain will send me over the edge. I have endured multiple surgeries and other ills all my life that have wilted heartier stock. But I've always thought, it just depends on the TYPE of pain and the person. I also think women (in general) are better at taking pain. As wives or moms, we rarely have the luxury of shutting the world down while we suffer. Case in point, I can barely move without coughing up small woodland creatures right now and yet I had to get up and fix breakfast for two kids and sweep the mess from under the kitchen table. The rest of my house looks like a tornado hit - that is the extent of my down time. But my bathrooms & kitchen are clean. My experience shows that men are worse patients. But only if they have someone to hover and take care of them. I've had many single male friends that have stoically taken on some pretty awful illnesses because they didn't have a partner to dote on them. My former spouse always shut down when I walked in the room - deferring to me on the smallest things. If I was gone, however, he was decisive and in charge. So there you have my thoughts.

Our Scoop said...

I think knowing that your precious little one is coming out helps with the pain a lot! A very big reward! I had a very long labor (32 hours of contractions) but I know they were not all that intense in the beginning - even if I thought so at the time!). I did have the epidural and the last 5 hours was heavenly :) I also thought it interesting that although he seemed to be in pain, he was able to talk and laugh and joke in between. Who knows what it proved but it was kind of funny to watch. I also thought the "gas" thing was SCARY. I don't know what it was exactly but yikes!

Katharine said...

Interesting experiment, interesting comments. I'm SO glad that is all behind me!
There's pain and there's pain. Having contractions, with breaks in between, is different than having less pain in a constant manner. Sure, we do what we have to do, and it's WONDERFUL to have a baby to hold at the end. Even so, I don't blame Mr. R for calling it quits.
I don't know what to say about the question of higher pain tolerance. It's all very subjective, isn't it? Knowing there's a definite purpose for the pain makes a huge difference.
Thanks for sharing this!