It is a known fact that child birth is excruciatingly painful. It was recently brought to my attention that women can forget the pain of labor. "Momnesia" is the term USA Today uses to describe this experience.

In a study reported in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology by Dr. Ulla Waldenström from the Department of Women and Child Health at the Karolinska Institute, 2428 Swedish mothers from antenatal, or pre-birth, clinics and took part in a 1999 study which analyzed women's memories of labor pains. 

The women filled out questionnaires to rate their experiences and memories of childbirth two months and a year after giving birth. A 5 year follow up was also conducted according to medical news today. 

The results found that almost 50% of women remembered labor as less painful than when they gave birth, 35% rated it is the same, and 16% rated it as more painful. 

The researchers reported that women who said labor was a positive experience two months after birth had the lowest pain scores and their memory continued to decline. The opposite is true for women with the opposite views. Women who thought labor was a negative experience rated their pain and the same or more intense than when they gave birth.

"A commonly held view," Waldenström said, "is that women forget the intensity of labor pain. The present study provides evidence that in modern obstetric care, this is true for about 50 percent of women."

Caroline Hill from Austin Texas said she had "momnesia" with both her children. "The pain after childbirth -- I didn't remember it being that bad" Hill told USA Today. Elizabeth Singleton from Gig Harbor Washington had the same experience. She birthed her daughter naturally and does not recall any of the pain. They credit this to the brain which typically softens or erases memories of traumatic events. 



The brain is really good at blocking out painful experiences: It's a psychological thing. According to my Psych 100 book, some brain encounters on of the seven sins of forgetting: persistence. A memory of a particularly traumatizing, or in this case painful, experience is "forgotten" by the brain. It remembers only what it can handle and what is useful for future experience. For example, a rape victim remembers being raped but not necessarily all the details of the whole experience. On another note, top-down processing works in actual experiences, in which if your attention is averted the level of pain felt on the experience is deterred. According to Curent Biology, a research in Germany was done that showed that "Attention modulates spinal cord responses to pain." Maybe how much attention the mother was paying to the baby's birth, resulted in an impact on how much pain they actually had or remembered having.

I have never even heard of this Momnesia before but I thought this was a great topic! I really enjoyed the statistics from the study that you included in the blog because it really proved your point that such a thing could exist due to the extraordinary powers of the human brain! I looked up some further research to extend this idea; I wanted to see if Dads or males in general are affected by child birth even though they are not the ones going through actual labor.
According to a article on Momnesia, it states that Dads also go through some sort of hormonal shift as well, "...a hormone that is associated with nurturing — in the weeks before birth. Their testosterone tends to dip, while estrogen levels rise during their first weeks of fatherhood". The article also states that, obviously once the child is born, both mothers and fathers suffer from serious sleep deprivation. This increases their fatigue which is said to be a large trigger for memory loss.... a similar side effect of Momnesia! Another reason as to Dad's may suffer some sort of memory loss is because of the amount of stress that is put on them at once. Stress, can damage attention span, which is known to impair the function of the hippocampus. The hippocampus of the brain essential for forming new memories. Maybe there should be such a thing as Dadnesia!

I found your article to be very interesting. While looking into the "dulling" or the memories of the pain of childbirth, I kept coming across articles on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD often develops in people who have experienced highly traumatizing situations like terrorist attacks, natural disasters, robberies or car accidents, but a study found that the mental disorder can also develop after normal life events like childbirth. According to this article:

In this study, 89 post-partum women between the ages of 20 and 40 were the subjects. Researchers interviewed the women first within 2-5 days after delivery, and then one month after delivery.

More than a third of all women after pregnancy exhibit some symptoms of PTSD, and more than 3 percent exhibit full-blown PTSD following labor. Of these women who developed PTSD after labor, 80 percent had opted for natural childbirth without pain relief. Therefore, the less pain relief, the higher the likelihood of developing PTSD. The rationale behind the labor-related PTSD is that although childbirth is not a sudden and unexpected event like an accident, giving birth to a child is accompanied by a real fear of danger, with the mother fearing not only for their own safety, but also for the health and well-being of their child. I thought it was interesting that "Momnesia" seems to be the exact opposite of labor-related PTSD.

It's so interesting that you posted about this because I was talking to my mom about what you labeled as "momnesia" just a few weeks ago. She explained to me that oftentimes new mothers feel so happy once they finally have their baby, that the experience itself is soon forgotten or at least the pain is mentally reduced in comparison to the joy felt by the new addition to their lives. At least this seemed to be the case for her and the mothers she knows. It is also possible that this can be attributed to PTSD and the memory itself is blocked by our brains in order to reduce this "feeling of danger" as the few commenters above have mentioned. However, this doesn't seem particularly likely to me seeing as mothers do remember the pain and the memory itself is not completely blocked or altered as would be the case with a sudden accident.

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