Labor Pain
Childbirth Connection

For many pregnant women, concerns about labor pain are second only to concerns about their baby’s health and well-being. However, women’s labor pain experiences are often quite different from other experiences of physical pain. Labor pain doesn’t have to involve suffering. In fact, working through your labor can bring a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

When a woman feels she is successfully meeting a challenge and is the center of loving attention, she may feel exhilarated even while in great pain. If she feels helpless and unable to cope or that people are not treating her with respect, she will suffer regardless of her pain level. And there are many ways to get help and increase your comfort at this time.

Decisions you make about pain relief measures can have a profound effect on:

  • Procedures, medications or restrictions that may become necessary for you or your baby;
  • Your experience (and memories) of labor; and
  • Your and your baby’s well-being after the birth.

As you can see, it’s important to think about and explore your labor pain relief options well in advance!

Women’s experience in labor with pain relief, control and involvement with decision making is often very different from their expectations and wishes. Women often experience more pain, less control and less involvement with decision making than they expected or wanted to have. Learning about pain relief options and clarifying preferences in pregnancy can help prepare you for meeting the challenges of labor. Lally, J.E., Murtagh, M.J., Macphail, S., & Thomson, R. (2008). More in hope than expectation: a systematic review of women’s expectations and experience of pain relief in labour. BMC Med, 6, 7. This section of the website will help you make informed choices based on the best and latest research and a more accurate understanding of labor pain issues. It will help you think about what is important to you when it comes to coping with labor pain. See tables that summarize labor pain relief options here.

Labor Pain Basics

Learn how labor pain differs from other types of pain, what it’s like for most women and your options for coping with labor pain.

Planning Ahead

Read detailed information on each type of pain relief. Learn how to work with your care provider, birth setting and loved ones to develop and carry though a plan. Also, learn why comfort measures are important even if you plan to use pain medications.

Comfort Measures for Labor Pain Relief

Comfort measures are one option for labor pain relief that can be used in conjunction with others. In this section, read about these measures, view illustrations and understand the pros and cons.

Research and Evidence

Understand the research and evidence behind the various labor pain relief options to help you make informed decisions.