CAN a man ever tell a woman she shouldn’t have pain relief in labour, even if he is a midwife?

That’s the debate that has been raging since Dr Denis Walsh, associate professor in midwifery at Nottingham University, called on the NHS to abandon routine pain relief in favour of natural therapies such as hypnosis and hydrotherapy.

His comments opened the floodgates for angry mothers and mothers-to-be to vent their frustrations on parenting websites shouting down his obvious flaw of being a man.

In Warrington, reflexologist Rosemary Reeves has come down firmly on Dr Walsh’s side of the fence.

“Having a baby is one of the most natural and fulfilling occurrences and, if possible, should be experienced without drugs,” said Rosemary, a mum of two.

“Of course the pain of child birth can be overwhelming; but sometimes it is the fear rather than the reality of the pain that makes it unbearable.

“Fear is a powerful emotion that can cause you to experience pain more intensely. It needs to be controlled so that the mother-to-be can use her energy to give birth.”

Rosemary, who works at Cheshire Natural Health in Stretton and is part of the natural fertility team, teaches deep relaxation techniques and self-hypnosis to be followed by the mum-to-be during birth.

Dr Walsh argued that the long-term effects of epidurals were not clear and that in routine labours women should try to abstain from pain relief.

Midwife Janet Oatway, of Here2Maternity, agrees. She said: “There is a place for an epidural but it shouldn’t be forced on everyone. It’s a marvellous drug, better than a general anaesthetic as that really does affect the bonding process.

“But if it’s a normal straightforward labour with a normal sized baby and a woman with no medical history they shouldn’t dive in with the big guns blazing, they should just try to see how they get on.”

Epidurals carry risks including long-term back pain and they should not be a first resort, she said.

Often warm baths, gas and air and paracetemols can be enough combined with support and a realistic expectation of how much pain to expect.

Janet added: “A lot of ladies forget that they are designed to give birth, it’s a natural event in their life. It will hurt and there’s no way around it – you can’t lie to people, it’s painful and it will be painful but there are so many different methods of pain relief available.”