The most often fear I hear about is pain in childbirth.  It comes across as if the pain is some external force that is larger and badder than any other entity imaginable. I believe the dramatic cable channel birth shows, network tv shows, a very high epidural rate, and the rampant sharing of scary birth stories has done much to reframe what labor and delivery is today.  Though it started way back in our country about 100 years ago with the writings of Joseph DeLee who believed that women needed to be saved from birth.

Pair those with the idea that we are supposed to always feel perfect, never have an ounce of discomfort or pain in our lives (have you seen the Tylenol advertisement that quips “One more step to a pain free world”?), well it sets up an unreasonable expectation and core understanding that there is no way as a woman “I” can handle it and why should “I”?!

I shake my head that women can think we are SO fragile and cannot tolerate or thrive in such a thing as labor and delivery.  We can be fierce, strong, tender, loving, organizational, multi-tasking, boo-boo fixers, community builders, compassionate, change makers, history makers – let alone having the ability to grow a brand new person (even if in our hearts through adoption or other ways).  WOW we are amazing.

Women are all those things and much more.  Believe in the design, abilities, and intuitive nature.

Back to the pain.  So what if it hurts?  It may. It may not.  Sometimes the work of labor means discomfort or pain though it isn’t normally the sort of pain or discomfort that is alarming.  It is powerful.  It is the woman who is making the hormones required to start labor and keep it progressing.  A woman’s body is designed to offer up endorphins to match the increasing strength of the contractions along with oxytocin.  Her own body medications are powerful and can bring a strong degree of relief though they do not change the incredible power that each woman makes and experiences in labor.

Positioning movement can assist in rotating baby into a more comfortable and optimal position such as, pelvic rocks, lunges, swaying on birth ball, stair walking, curb walking, talking to baby, knee chest, advanced sims,  and a woman listening to her body to find the right movement.

Emotional pain need to be recognized and worked through in whatever way serves the laboring woman best.  Obtaining an epidural will usually not quash emotional pain and may increase it.  If fear creeps in, contractions can become painful.  Addressing the issue at hand, having support around you to, and making the space her own can help.

If at the hospital and there is something happening that is infringing on the mother’s rights or is antagonistic, she may want to consider asking for another nurse or doctor to come in and help the situation and/or seek out the patient advocate.

When it comes to physical pain or discomfort a variety of techniques can be employed. Some of these are – position changes, getting into tub or shower, hot and/or cold compresses, having a doula present, snacking and drinking in labor, refusing routine interventions, massage, visualization, vocalizations, prayer, meditation, relaxation, hypnotherapy, listening to music, soothing smells, visuals, and textures, having supportive people including care provider and using a birth ball.

If another woman shares an incredibly painful birth story, ask questions.  Was she induced? In bed the whole time? Lacking support? Lacking education? Poor baby position?  Augemented labor? Was she scared? Did she feel empowered? In a stressful environment?  Questions that will help understand where the pain came from.

Women can do ANYTHING for a minute at a time culminating in hours after the many months of growing and nourishing a baby on the inside. The work of labor and delivery also can bring a sense of comfidence and ability into mothering her baby on the outside.   Easy it will likely not be, but anything worth something requires effort, steadfastness, and often discomfort.  It is in that place we grow and show what we are made of.

Be confident.  Women are strong!

Desirre Andrews is a dual-certified Childbirth Educator (CAPPA and Lamaze International), Certified Labor Doula, Certified Lactation Educator, CAPPA Faculty Member, and the President of the International Cesarean Awareness Network. Learn more at