Women’s childbirth memories shaped around pain they felt

Many women say childbirth is the most painful experience of their life. But new research suggests a woman’s memory of giving birth is shaped by different factors.

When recalling their experience of childbirth, women tend to remember the most painful part of labour and the pain they felt at the end – and apply these levels of pain to the whole event. As part of the study, researchers recruited 320 women and accompanied each one of them into the delivery room while they were giving birth.

They asked her to rate her pain every 20 minutes, on a scale of 1 (meaning no pain) to 100 (meaning the worst pain imaginable). They called the new mother two days after delivery and asked her to rate her pain using the same scale and provide and overall number evaluating the pain of her labour, from the moment she entered the delivery room up until she gave birth.

Two months after the delivery they asked her to evaluate the pain of her labour in this way again.

Peak end bias describes how people only recall the peak point and end point of an experience and ignore all other parts.

Duration neglect describes how people’s judgements of painful experiences are not influenced by the duration of the experience.

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