Pain usually indicates the presence of a menace to our health and well being. Avoiding pain, like retrieving our hand from a fire, is instinctive.
Although this is true for most scenarios, it is not applicable for giving birth. The more the contractions hurt, the closer we are to an amazing event.
Although a woman never fully forgets giving birth, she usually just remembers general pain and discomfort. We can thank something called the “halo effect”. The happiness, relief, euphoria, and excitement of holding your new tiny baby in your arms for the first time just takes over. Watching him open his cute little eyes & grab your finger with his hand and even just watching him sleep creates a deeper memory than all the pain and suffering. It is not that you have forgotten about the bad, it just means that the good surpassed the rest.
Labor also releases oxytocin and the uterus becomes tremendously sensitive to it. This hormone, also known as the love hormone, is important for the recognition and establishment of social relationships as well as the creation of social attachments, feelings of trust and generosity. Oxytocin also intensifies positive social memories and enhances our feeling of general well-being. Basically, we are high on happiness.
This is why we not only do not remember labor as being that painful, but maybe, more importantly, why we are willing to do it all over again for more children.
Maite is a mom of 3, a Cognitive Neuroscience PhD, Psychologist & Education expert and owner of Neubuco LLC. She offers her knowledge of applied neuroscience to everyday life here at LH.