Women should embrace the full pain of childbirth to bond with their babies instead of resorting to anesthetic drugs, a leading male midwife has said.

UK professor Dr. Denis Walsh said the pain of labor should be considered a "rite of passage" and a "purposeful, useful thing."

The pain prepares women for the responsibilities of motherhood, he wrote in an international journal published Monday.

"It is a woman's choice, and I don't think we have any good evidence to show that you have to have pain to be a good mother," said obstetrician Dr. Louise Kornman from Melbourne, Australia.

Walsh said celebrity births and TV and film portrayals had contributed to a culture of pain relief as normal — even though labor pain was natural, healthy and temporary.

"It has never been safer to have a baby, yet it appears women have never been more frightened," he said.

Walsh called on health officials to encourage women to use yoga, hypnosis, massage, hydrotherapy and support from their partners as natural ways of alleviating pain.

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