Women have a higher pain threshold than men

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
"I'm kind of eating my words at the moment because it I think there is something in this experiment …"Dr Andrew Rochford

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Science now tells us that men and women experience pain differently. But can men handle what is apparently one of the most agonising of human experiences?

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Our host and father of three, Dr Andrew Rochford, will undergo a simulated labour in order to gain a better understanding of the childbirth process and explore the range of pain relief techniques currently available for women in labour.

Explaining the pain
The pelvic area is rich in nerves that respond sharply to both pressure and pain. The pressure of contractions and the stretching of the surrounding tissue is then perceived as pain. Tension of the muscles in that area will add to the perception of pain. The pain from the stretched tissues during contractions sends impulses along the nerves and then to the spinal cord. The spinal cord will stop some of the impulses, and allow others to continue into the brain, where they are perceived as pain.

The simulation
Obviously, we could never put a man through the full experience of childbirth but we can simulate the pain caused by contractions during child birth labour. By attaching low-voltage electrodes to Andrew's abdominal muscles we are able to contract the muscles, simulating the pain experienced in child birth. Over time, the voltage was heightened and each time, each shock was delivered closer together.

Sources of pain during labour and birth
An emotional source of pain can be fear of the unknown, and also a lack of education. Functional sources of pain can be cervical dilatation, contractions, descent of the baby, and the position of the baby.

Pain relief The pain relief options that Andrew tried:

  • Stress balls
  • Focusing on something else — take your mind elsewhere
  • Positioning, for example on all fours on a gym ball
  • Relaxation and breathing techniques
  • Support team
  • Nitrous oxide

Andrew lasted three hours and 32 minutes. The contractions lasted for 60 seconds and were two minutes apart. "Men of the world, you have no idea. Leave it to the women. Forget the whole pain-threshold debate. We have nothing. Women win, men don't. The end. (I'm glad that's over!)" — Dr Andrew Rochford

Important note:
It is not intended that the information in this program or website be substituted for the benefits obtained from consultation with, and treatment by, a qualified health practitioner. Nor is it intended to directly or indirectly prescribe the use of various remedies without the consent of your health practitioner. If you are under medical care for any condition, seek the advice of your healthcare practitioner before acting on any suggestions in this program or website and do not make any adjustments to prescribed medication without their approval.

YOUR SAY: Do you think women handle pain better than men?

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