The Pain of Childbirth

“The word “pain” is a word that we give to a sensation that we strongly prefer not to have. When I’m having a sensation that I don’t wish to have, then I call it pain. Pain therefore is a way of saying I strongly wish to be elsewhere because there’s an incredibly powerfully focused sensation occurring in my body.”

Thom Knoles

The pain a mother experiences when giving birth is an experience that only a mother could know. Though it’s often overplayed in movies and on television, it’s a sacred experience that brings extremes of emotion into play.

In this episode, Thom leans heavily on the experience of midwives and mothers, and shares how the Vedic perspective on pain can be applied to the process of labor and childbirth. 

He also shares why Vedic Meditation is not recommended during the process of childbirth.

Whether you plan on giving birth or not, this is an episode we can all learn from and apply to other experiences of pain in our lives.

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Episode Highlights


The Greatest Act of All Time



400,000 Births per Day



Embrace the Situation



A Necessary Level of Intensity



Facilitating the Movement



Avoid Meditation in Labor



Necessary Stress Chemistry



Indie Birth


Jai Guru Deva


The Pain of Childbirth

[00:45] The Greatest Act of All Time

Jai Guru Deva. Thank you for listening to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles. I’ve been asked to comment about childbirth and the pain of labor. and I have to say that giving absolute credit to the women, I want to be careful here, and this is my bowing my head to Mother Divine and to all the women who are listening now, to say that, as a man, I’ve got no conception of what kind of sensation might occur.

People sometimes say if you pass a kidney stone, it’s supposed to be more painful than giving birth to a child. And that comment coming from a woman who’s given birth to a child, I might lend some credibility to that.

But I have to say that no man ever has any concept of the entire range of sensations that occur in a woman when she is engaged in the divine act of bringing another human being onto the earth. And really all of us men have to nod our heads and bow in the direction of whomever in our environment has actually done that. It’s the greatest act of all time.

[02:12] 400,000 Births per Day

And the fact that, on any given day currently, somewhere on the level of 390,000 babies are being born today. The number goes up currently, and it will continue going up until about 2050. The number of daily births in each 24-hour period, nearly 400,000, say around 390,000, mothers are having this experience.

And so when you think about that occurring over the entire range of the clock, there is no moment where there’s not a laboring mother somewhere on Earth, utterly engaged and committing her body, her mind, her heart, her soul to the phenomenon of bringing yet another wonderful human being onto this planet, as your own mother did.

Whatever relationship you have with your mother, irrespective of whatever your relationship is with your mother, you do owe her a bowing of the head.

So, Mothers, please forgive a man talking about an experience that only you uniquely know directly.

I’d like to then, having laid out all that caveat, I’d like to repeat things that I’ve heard about the subject from some of the world’s most amazing midwives. And it goes like this.

[03:48] Embrace the Situation

The word “pain” is a word that we give to a sensation that we strongly prefer not to have. When I’m having a sensation that I don’t wish to have, then I call it pain. Pain therefore is a way of saying I strongly wish to be elsewhere because there’s an incredibly powerfully focused sensation occurring in my body.

It is so powerfully focused and excludes all other experience and all other rationale and all other capability to enjoy anything, that I’m going to call that pain.

What I heard midwives, one of whom is herself the mother of 10 children, describing to a mother was that we want to see to what extent we can actually embrace the sensation and acknowledge how powerful it is, acknowledge how exclusively focused it is, and acknowledge how extreme it is, not to refer to it as “pain” because I don’t want to be here.

“I don’t want to be experiencing this,” is a style of thinking that causes the sensation to turn up the dial. That is to say, if we can find a way of allowing our consciousness, and meditators are very good at this by the way, of allowing our consciousness to find the dimensions, the size, the locale, the size, and where’s the point, the core point of the sensation, letting our consciousness embrace it and feel it and give expression to it.

[06:02] A Necessary Level of Intensity

It may cause you to call out in guttural fashion. Go for it. But feel it, be with it, embrace it, let it move you.

When you do that, then letting the consciousness flow with it will cause the sensation to keep the dial of intensity, the intensity dial, at a level that it needs to be, to allow, really, what’s happening, which is a human head entering the birth canal and making its way through an area that is half the size, half the size, of the size of that head.

The head is approximately, at minimum, double the size, the diameter, of the birth canal. Sometimes the head is more than double the size of the birth canal, and the head of the neonate, the newborn baby, fortunately is malleable and it has to squish down. The skull is like plasticine.

It has to squish down and narrow itself and become somewhat tubular, conformed into that tubular fashion by the birth canal itself. So that when a newborn baby is born, sometimes we might be surprised if we’re inexperienced in this area that its head is slightly conical or dome-shaped and it begins to become more spherical after a few hours after birth.

That process of getting a human brain from one’s inner uterus out into the world is the most fantastical feat imaginable. And it’s happening around 400,000 times today in this 24-hour period. And your mother, whoever she was and whatever she did right and whatever experiments she did that didn’t work out, you owe her this.

[08:26] Facilitating the Movement

The way to address this is to see to what extent we can go with the sensation, dive into the core of it, and actually be in that consciousness frame of mind where we embrace it. Embrace it and express it. Embrace and express, and allow it to have its way with you.

Now, I have to acknowledge, again, I want to express my, and ask for forgiveness of the women who are listening to this. This is a male voice here, talking about this, and I acknowledge fully that experientially, I don’t know what I’m talking about. You do. You women who’ve had babies, you know.

But to whatever extent this little expression of me simply conveying what I’ve heard champion midwives tell champion mothers, to whatever extent it’s possible…

Why is the sensation so strong? Well, we’ve described the mechanics of it, the head and the birth canal and their relative sizes, but attention to an area where a powerful sensation is occurring is facilitating the movement that has to occur. Attention on that which is producing a sensation brings about facility, it facilitates the movement that has to occur and rejection of it is the opposite of facilitating.

It may cause obstruction and it may prolong the period of time in which that movement inevitably needs to occur. And it might also increase the intensity of the sensation. The dial goes from seven to 10 instead of staying at seven.

[10:30] Avoid Meditation in Labor

And so this is the why, the how… learn to meditate first. Now, one important thing, now that we’re on the subject, those of you who know how to practice Vedic Meditation, it is considered to be not a good idea to practice Vedic Meditation while in labor.

You can practice it as much as you care to, as much as is comfortable, during the 40 weeks leading up to labor. You may meditate more than twice a day. The typical recommendation is twice a day, and no more than 20 minutes. The typical recommendation is 20 minutes.

When you are an expectant mother, as you feel as is comfortable, you may meditate more. However, when the first contractions begin, it’s a good idea to stop meditating until the baby is born. Why? Well, meditation is well known to decrease the entire spectrum of catecholamines. These are stress-related chemicals, one of which is blood lactate. Blood lactate is the physiological form taken by lactic acid, the active ingredient in blood lactate is lactic acid.

[11:54] Necessary Stress Chemistry

Lactic acid is a chemical that causes muscles to be able to contract. When you exercise, supposing you’re climbing a mountain or climbing a lot of steps or doing some kind of exercise and you feel “the burn,” as we call it, in the muscle as you are doing the exercise, that burn, that sensation, is caused by a number of things, but one of those powerful things is blood lactate or lactic acid.

When people practice Vedic Meditation, it has been demonstrated that the concentration of lactic acid goes down. It decreases and muscles become much more relaxed.

Now we need to remember that a contraction, that is to say a labor pain, a contraction is indeed a contraction of a specific muscle, and that muscle is called the cervix. It is a disc of muscle that has a hole in the middle of it, which has got to become the birth canal. It has to become the opening into the birth canal. The cervix must contract. It must pull on itself and the disc needs to allow that hole in the middle of it to open up to allow the baby’s head to emerge.

If, while you are having contractions, you practice Vedic Meditation, then you’re going to deplete the amount of lactic acid in the body that is needed for contracting that muscle, and so it might contract a certain amount and then you meditate and then it doesn’t contract anymore because you’re depleting the body of that necessary stress chemical.

In other words, you need the stress chemistry in your female apparatus in order for the disc of the cervix to contract sufficiently quickly to facilitate a more rapid than otherwise would be, more rapid movement of the head into the birth canal.

[14:21] Indie Birth

And so it’s recommended that we meditate, I say we, women please forgive me for that, you women do not meditate during the process of labor. Postpone it all until baby is out and then as soon as it is possible to do so, have your meditation, either with baby in arms or at the breast or, if there’s somebody else who can look after the little neonate, do your meditation after the birth.

So, those are some comments from me and for those of you who would like to find out more about the Vedic worldview and childbirth, I strongly recommend you look up a website called Indie Birth, I-N-D-I-E-B-I-R-T-H dot O-R-G. Indie Birth is owned and operated by a group of Vedic meditators who bring that conceptualization that I just only very briefly touched on, just a tiny fragment of it, into the feminine world and I strongly endorse and recommend those people.

Jai Guru Deva

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