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Memory for the quantitative and qualitative aspects of labour pain: a preliminary study

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Expectations of labour pain were assessed in 18 primiparous women during the late stage of pregnancy. Assessments of actual labour pain were then made during the first stage of active labour and again shortly after birth (within 48 hours). Finally, the consistency of memory of this latter assessment was tested 4-7 weeks postpartum. The McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ) and a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) were used as the pain assessment tools. Data were analysed using correlational procedures to assess intensity, together with Cohen's kappa statistic to assess the consistency of the qualitative aspects of labour pain memory. While intensity measures based on memory were correlated highly with those taken shortly after childbirth, the results support the observation by Niven and Brodie \[Pain, 64, 387-392 (1995) ] that memory for the qualitative nature of labour pain shows low consistency with that reported shortly after birth. However, these pain memories are not augmented by prior expectancies of childbirth. We suggest that a form of 'reconstruction' occurs after the event, when memories of labour pain are based upon recall of other aspects of the birth experience, e.g. the remembered emotional and behavioural consequences of the pain.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2000

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