Your Birth Pain and Your Weight/Fitness? - Mothering Forums

View Poll Results: What is your size and was your birth painful?
I am thin/smaller and had a low-moderate pain birth. 39 36.45%
I am thin/smaller and had a very painful birth. 21 19.63%
I am larger/overweight/fluffy and had a low pain birth. 29 27.10%
I am larger/overweight/fluffy and had a very painful birth. 12 11.21%
Other. 6 5.61%
Voters: 107. You may not vote on this poll

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#1 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 04:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So my MIL is driving me nuts, telling me how SIL had a relatively low-pain birth because she is in such good shape, and I had painful births because I am not.

For background- my first birth was 29 hours. So was SIL's.
My second was pretty short- maybe 5-7 hours, tops. Only 2-3 hours of bad pain. I am a huge advocate of NCB and I had both in FSBCs and will have my next there as well. But I will say that my births were horribly painful, even with jacuzzis, breathing, etc. I don't think it was anyone's fault, it's just how it went. And I will gladly do it again, and loved birth.

However my MIL says that hers were never more than uncomfortable, and SIL says it was like bad period cramps. I would say mine were excruciating, no exaggeration. MIl says it's because I am larger and they aren't. But I don't see a connection. I am in great health, I walk plenty, etc. Both my births were uneventful and "normal" or typical. Both kids slipped out after less than 20 minutes of pushing. Both had good recoveries.

Was there a connection for you?

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#2 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 04:39 PM
 
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Its bull.

First pregnancy I was out of shape and put on 7 stone in that 9 months, hurt like hell but it was an induction.

Second pregnancy, was out of shape and 18 stone and it hurt like hell.

Third pregnancy, I had exercised through most of it, was 13 stone and it hurt like hell.

It just hurts........
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#3 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 05:41 PM
 
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On how many levels is that wrong? Thanks, MIL. I was in pretty good shape and had a low pain birth, but I was about 20 lbs overweight pre-pregnancy and put on loads of weight (with twins).

Don't think the two have much to do with each other.

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#4 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 06:34 PM
 
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I can't answer your question (yet), but I've seen a lot of bigger-than-average mammas do fantastic with natural births on YouTube. I've also met skinny/fit mammas who complained how horrible their labor was (including my ex-Yoga teacher who told me she wished she had a C/S during her first birth).

I've seen it go the other way, too.

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#5 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 06:56 PM
 
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I didn't vote because I needed more than one option.

Birth #1 I was extremely overweight, but still in good health, and had a pretty easy birth.

Birth #2 I was extremely overweight, though I weighed less than #1 and was in better health, and had a horrible birth.
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#6 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 07:25 PM
 
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For me, there wasn't a connection. I'm average build (5'7" and 130 pounds) and was for both of my pregnancies and births. My first birth was long, painful, and exhausting. I attribute that to a first birth and to him most likely being posterior (I had back labor for about 30 hours and never progressed past 6 cm). For my second birth, it was short, easy, and almost entirely pain-free. I attribute that to it being a second birth with a baby that was in a good position and to doing Hypnobabies. My births were like night and day but my body shape and fitness level didn't change at all, so that doesn't support your MIL's theory at all.
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#7 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 07:29 PM
 
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I'm more medium, but I put myself in the "larger" category because that feels more right to me than "skinny/fit". I had a really easy birth and not a terrible amount of pain.
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#8 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 08:07 PM
 
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I did not vote. I do not think weight fitness plays a role in pain during childbirth. I think your MIL and SIL may have some mutant genes that play in their favor, but does not reflect anything on you and why your childbirths went the way they did...

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#9 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 08:17 PM
 
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I'm slightly overweight, put on about 35 lbs, and had no pain. I don't see the connection. I don't think birth pain is "punishment" for being out of shape. I personally believe it's largely hereditary. I would think that most people believe the exact opposite, that smaller women have hard/painful births and larger squat, pop the baby out, and go right back to what she was doing.
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#10 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 08:21 PM
 
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I've had a "typical" birth (so to speak, in relation to my other two, it was about in the middle, pain-wise), a really excruciating and difficult birth, and a very easy, gentle, wonderful birth. I'm well padded.
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#11 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 08:26 PM
 
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I think that's really rude of your MIL to say that.

There are SO many factors involved with labor pain. Genetics, positioning of baby, status of your "bag of waters," your positioning, your anxiety level, induction vs. natural, etc.

Anecdotaly, I have seen seriously overweight women have a harder time in childbirth and have a higher c-section rate. I don't know the actual statistics - it's just what I've seen over the last year in the hospital. There could be many different reasons for this -- I'm not sure I know the answer.
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#12 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 08:38 PM
 
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I am petite and in good shape. Both my births were very painful, but it was my perception that made the difference. I prefer to use the word "intense" to describe it rather than painful, because it wasn't a pain that I couldn't handle...although it was very, very strong and looking back I have no idea how I did it!
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#13 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 08:47 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LilacMama View Post
Anecdotaly, I have seen seriously overweight women have a harder time in childbirth and have a higher c-section rate. I don't know the actual statistics - it's just what I've seen over the last year in the hospital. There could be many different reasons for this -- I'm not sure I know the answer.
I have seen this too my personal opinion is that it is due mainly from the way they are treated by their doctors/care providers. Some of the stories I have heard from obese women make me sick for them. Their doctors are often cruel and disgusted by them and it makes for a very inhibiting birth situation. Again this is my personal opinion and I don't think all doctors do this but alot do.

As to the original question I have been varying degrees of fit to fluffy and have had varying degrees of pain none that corelates with my level of fitness.
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#14 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 08:54 PM
 
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There is no merit to the idea at all.

First birth, I was in pretty good shape, and it was moderate pain. Second birth, five pounds heavier, and I had severe pain. Third birth and fourth births I weighed more, and both were both peaceful and relatively low pain. I was in terrible shape with my fourth pregnancy, health-wise, and it was just about the best birth ever. There's just no correlation.

It isn't a bad idea to be in good physical condition for pregnancy and birth, but it is not going to make it not hurt. :

I think people like to say crazy things that somehow support their ideas of how the world works. It's like those parents who have one easy-going child who feel like they must be doing something very right because their child is so very easy... Some people just have less pain with birthing. FWIW a lot of extremely fit women have trouble coping with the pain, and there are heavy women who think it feels like cramps.

I'd say one of the reasons that heavier women might have more problems can sometimes be attributed to the fact that everyone around them expects more problems. And when drs expect problems, they DO THINGS ... and often end up causing problems. Not that all the issues heavier women have are iatrogenic... but I'd say a fair amount ARE. Drs look at "average" sized pregnant women and see danger! stamped all over her... it must be even more exaggerated for a woman they also see stamped as "unhealthy" just based on her size. : Even just having that stress in the air, subtle things that people do and say... it could definitely add to a mama's stress level and that might make it more painful than it would be under more relaxed circumstances. People just don't realize how much those little tiny things can affect the birth experience!

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#15 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 09:47 PM
 
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Research might back your MIL up.

http://www.reproductive-health-journ...content/5/1/10

Group 1 = moms who exercised
Group 2 = control group
Quote:
There was no difference between the two groups regarding duration (457.9 +/- SD 249.6 vs 428.9 +/- SD 203.2 minutes) or type of delivery. Labor analgesia was requested by significantly fewer women in the water aerobics group (27% vs 65%; RR=0.42 95%CI 0.23-0.77). Neonatal results were similar in both groups.

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#16 of 49 Old 12-02-2008, 10:01 PM
 
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Sorry to say, but your MIL is right- there IS science to back her up. (But I would agree it's rude of her to say - as if she's rubbing it in your face!)

I'm not skinny, but very fit (I teach fitness classes part time.) My labor was only 6 hours total, while transition was excruciating, it was only that one hour or 1.5 hour of transition that I felt I was in bad pain- the rest was just like bad cramps.

I bought the book, Exercising Through your Pregnancy by Dr. Clapp. Exercising through pregnancy has TONS of benefits - including a lower rate of epidural. Now... I can't recall if he had the groups rate their level of pain - perhaps birth WAS just as painful for the exercisers, but they didn't request epidurals as much for whatever reason. Other benefits included delivering early (NOT a higher rate of prematurity, but delivering 5-7 days earlier at term).

A few things though
1. The benefits of exercising through pregnancy were not seen in groups that only started exercising during pregnancy. That sub-group didn't see as much benefit as those who had already been regularly exercising pre-conceiving & continued to do so.

2. In order to be part of the "exercising" group, women had to exercise:
-20 min or more
-3X per week or more
-moderate to high intensity

So, walking doesn't really count, unless you're walking very briskly up lots of hills - enough to get your HR up & sweat.

Of course, each birth is unique & as a PP said -other factors like baby's position & BOW play a big factor as well.

But yes, Dr. Clapp's extensive research has shown that, on the whole, your MIL is right--> regular exercise does lead to shorter, easier labors.
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#17 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 12:09 AM
 
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Hm. Well, her first mistake is in assuming that thin necessarily means fit and that fit necessarily means thin.

Her second mistake is in assuming that birth pain level necessarily correlates to fitness level. For that to be so, birth would have to be a highly strenuous activity. If it's not, fitness level is moot. Blood pressure is a factor, but you don't have to be a thin athlete to have good blood pressure. Uterine muscle tone is a factor too, but I don't know how you really do anything about that. Maybe having lots of sex? Does a healthy sexual life qualify as "fitness"? Actually, I think it's largely hormonally driven (same reason my 11-year-old son already has stronger biceps than me, even though he does less hard labor than I do.)

As for me, I am around 60 lbs. above what our society deems appropriate, and I can do better than "uncomfortable" or "bad menstrual cramps" -- I actually enjoyed much of my labors up until the end. That's when the baby's head began to put pressure on the nerves surrounding my sacrum. Which would have still happened regardless of fitness level.

Also, I wonder what she'd attribute the pain of menstruation to? I can guarantee she wouldn't regard me as fit, but I know thin women, and fit women, who have excruciating pain during their periods. I've rarely experienced pain during my periods at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LilacMama View Post
Anecdotaly, I have seen seriously overweight women have a harder time in childbirth and have a higher c-section rate. I don't know the actual statistics - it's just what I've seen over the last year in the hospital. There could be many different reasons for this -- I'm not sure I know the answer.
Medical bias/fat bigotry; difficulty with mobility; difficulty and discomfort in trying to deal with aspects of the environment made for smaller people such as a narrow bed, small bathtub/shower, narrow hallways; elevated (culturally induced) self-consciousness and shame... yeah, that would just about do it.
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#18 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 12:20 AM
 
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Originally Posted by MegBoz View Post
I can't recall if he had the groups rate their level of pain - perhaps birth WAS just as painful for the exercisers, but they didn't request epidurals as much for whatever reason.
Well, that's sort of an important thing to take into account. If pain isn't different, what would it be about being fit that would make one less likely to request an epidural? Here's one possibility (and I'm sure there are many) -- if mom is used to working through pain, especially in doing so stoicly, she may be less likely to vocalize in a way that would make people try to "fix" her.

Quote:
Other benefits included delivering early (NOT a higher rate of prematurity, but delivering 5-7 days earlier at term).
And considering that a benefit is purely a matter of opinion.

I'd be interested to see the study, how it was done, and what the actual stats were.
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#19 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 12:24 AM
 
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That's so nuts...I am in decent shape and had a painful birth (aren't most of them painful??). Wish it was otherwise but it was pretty dang painful!! I just think it has to do with so many factors, like the baby's position, what nerves are being pressed on, how prepared you are ahead of time, if you are stressed out during labor (which is a certainty), etc.

I used red raspberry leaf tea for my first baby and my labor really was short and pretty intense. Next time around (if there is one), I would use Hypnobabies or something to hypnotize myself to lessen the pain.

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#20 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 12:31 AM
 
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I'm pretty little and I had a very manageable level of pain during my birth. My mom and my sister also had really easy births, and I think all that has more to do with our shared genetics. Thank you, mom, for giving me your good childbirthing genes.
I could see how fitness, like cardio stamina or endurance or strength, could maybe play some kind of role in childbirth? possibly? But I don't think it's as simple as the number on the scale.

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#21 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 12:56 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Collinsky View Post
Drs look at "average" sized pregnant women and see danger! stamped all over her... it must be even more exaggerated for a woman they also see stamped as "unhealthy" just based on her size. :
I agree.

Also, as much as it's worth anecdotally, my family history also refutes the MIL's argument.

Sister 1: severely overweight/obese, short (100% natural labours) (under 6 hours) with all three, her final labour lasting 2 hours total, baby born in an intact caul after 2 pushes. (sounds terrifying to me, but she swears up and down it wasn't that painful) She claims her pain was moderate, and this was flat-on-her-back hospital-style labour.

Sister 2- skinny/fit (she was a model and swam daily while expecting baby #1) Short (also natural) labours (baby #1- 5 hours, baby #2-induced, 2 hours total) but she describes them as excruciatingly painful. After baby #1, she desperately wanted an epidural for #2 but labour was way too quick. She refuses to have any more babies because she finds labour intensely painful.

Myself-definitely fluffy (cute term, BTW) Baby was stubbornly posterior. Labour was definitely manageable, then membranes ruptured and I needed the pool. The water took contractions from an 8/10 to a 4/10 until transition, which was rough but hip squeezes got me through it. Baby was pushed out in 'record time' according to midwife (first baby + posterior, I was sooo lucky to be pushing for less than an hour) and that night I was talking about having another.

I don't think weight alone has that much to do with it, fitness probably does but then again the key point is skinny doesn't automatically mean fit.

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#22 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 02:14 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fourlittlebirds View Post
I'd be interested to see the study, how it was done, and what the actual stats were.
"Exercising Through your Pregnancy" is the title of the book. Dr. Clapp is the author. TOTALLY fascinating read! But that could just be IMO, because I find exercise physiology as interesting as birth.

The exercising group also had a higher rate of spontanous labor & lower rates of other interventions, such as instrumental delivery.

Incidentally, I didn't vote in the poll. I don't consider myself thin or small, but I'm not overweight. Additionally, my birth was only painful for a relatively short period of time, (transition), but during that time it was very painful. So I don't characterize it as low or high pain...

Also, as another poster mentioned "Fit" & "Fat" are not necessarily opposites. It's entirely possible to be totally unfit + thin as well as fat + fit together.
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#23 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 11:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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But yes, Dr. Clapp's extensive research has shown that, on the whole, your MIL is right--> regular exercise does lead to shorter, easier labors.
Oh yes, I would believe that exercise could make birth easier. I just think she's thinking weight, not exercise level. Thanks, ladies!

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#24 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 11:40 AM
 
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I am very small and fit and had a moderately painful birth. I don't know if physique had anything to do with it though. I'm sure it helped though. I exercised, did yoga, and remained at my job (also physical) up until the very end.

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#25 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 11:58 AM
 
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Ok, I didn't read this whole thread... but wasn't there another thread not that long ago about mamas with extremely taut abs having difficult births because of positioning problems for the baby? Like, because their abs held the uterus in so much baby couldn't turn as well and as a result they experienced back labor? Obviously that could be an extreme case of fitness, but it seems useful in this case. Although, maybe extremely unfit abs makes baby hang out too far and makes positioning difficult as well?

I'll say this - I *was* more fit for my first labor (but not real thin, and no overly fit) and my first labor was easier and shorter, though I was induced with pit from nothing, than my second labor. I was much thinner for my second birth, but not nearly as fit... that is, I had less fat, but much less muscle, too.

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#26 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 02:51 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Juvysen View Post
mamas with extremely taut abs having difficult births because of positioning problems for the baby? Like, because their abs held the uterus in so much baby couldn't turn as well and as a result they experienced back labor?
Coddswallop! A friend of mine said the same thing (actually.. I think it was something about tight abs inhibiting pushing...)

A full term baby has very little wiggle room in the uterus of any mama anyway!

But the key thing here is that strong muscles are not necessarily very tight muscles! I have very strong biceps, but that doesn't mean they are so tight that I can't straighten my arm all the way.

(Putting on my fitness instructor hat here...)
Flexibility is defined as the "range of motion around a joint." The amount of free movement we have. Strength is defined as the total amount of force a muscle can generate. These 2 things don't necessarily work against one another. A person can have super-strong muscles & be super-flexible! Just look at gymnasts. (That's why I hate that dumb phrase, "Muscle-bound." Muscles don't "bind" us.)

Now, sometimes muscles CAN be tight enough to inhibit motion/ flexibility, but that's extremely rare in abs. This is more often seen as a result of a sedentary lifestyle, such as tight hip flexors & hamstrings from being seated all day & tight chest muscles from poor posture (shoulders slumped forward.)
The vast majority of mamas exercising through their pregnancy probably also have enough sense to stretch a bit.

And finally, Bradley training teaches that it is the exercises themselves ("Tilts & tucks" AKA yoga "cat/cow" pose) that help move baby into the right position.
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#27 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 03:22 PM
 
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I'm fat. My end weight with my last pregnancy was 285. Although, I stopped looking at the scale about a week before the birth.

My pregnancy when I was at my "thinnest" (260 end wieght) was scary and awful. I dont' remember if it hurt or not because of the stupid stadol. My second pregnancy (also end weight of 285) was intense but painless. Third birth hurt like heck but was 4 hours long and complication free. So I say it's piffle.

I do think general health can help with birth, but one can be fat and healthy. I'm fat because I overeat stuff like homemade beans and rice burritos and chicken stir fry, rather than Doritos and ice cream. And I am more active than the average American by a great deal.
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#28 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 03:39 PM
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ok, i put other because i had a pleasureable/ecstatic birth.

but, i don't think that had to do with my level of fitness. i had a very fit pregnancy with very little discomfort of any kind, except modest swelling towards the end if i got too hot (and it was august) that went away if i hydrated and rested in a cool place.

i think that i had a pleasurable/ecstatic birth for a number of reasons: 1. i believe this sort of birth is possible and could likely be the "natural" way that birth is; 2. i realized that, for me, a lot of what would bring on pain or a sense of pain were two things--a. the interpretation of intense sensation as pain and b. fear; 3. in order to overcome the issues of 2, i practiced yoga and got cranio sacral therapy which helped me learn to simply follow and experience my body without judgement. in turn, i believe that this preparatory work allowed me to have a pleasurable birth, in part because i was open to simply experiencing, which might have meant also experiencing a painful birth--which would turn pain into ecstacy.

it's tough to explain.

but anyway, the idea is this--pleasure and pain are descriptions that we place on an experience that we have. the experience is the experience. if you could measure experience in some way--say, intensity of contractions--you might discover that 200 women have the exact same intensity, but 200 women have 200 different descriptions of what or when things were painful or pleasurable at various times. what one woman calls 'easy' another calls 'hard.' what one calls pleasurable, another calls painful.

so, i wouldn't think about this at all. i think that anyone can hav e any kind of birth experience. in the end, it's just experience--and it teaches us one way or another. love your body, love your birth. it was yours. and forget about other people's stuff.
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#29 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 09:16 PM
 
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In your thread title you spoke about weight/fitness, and in your poll you asked about weight/size. I am petite in size, but am not "fit". I don't exercise, and definitely wouldn't consider myself to be "healthy" and/or "active". My birth was very painful
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#30 of 49 Old 12-03-2008, 09:31 PM
 
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I think that the only conclusion that can be drawn from your MIL's comments is that people with easy births who have in-laws who have harder births should STFU.

Oh, and I'm overweight, but walked at least a mile a day including stairs throughout pregnancy and had a 43 hour labor counting from when I needed to cope with the pain (6/10 to 9/10) of contractions.
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