Labour Pain

  • Laura WhitburnEmail author
  • Lester Jones


Contemporary thinking about pain suggests its ultimate function is more than just to indicate bodily injury, pathology or disease. This would seem especially important in the pain that a woman feels during labour and childbirth. The event of birthing a child is essentially a normal and vital physiological process but the pain women report can be extreme. In addition, it can be quite variable, and the variability cannot be explained by tissue-based factors alone. The variability extends not just to the intensity of the pain but also to its quality and behaviour. Equally variable is the ability for women to cope with the pain associated with childbirth. It can be anticipated that individuals will have differing capacities to cope, but the variability can also be a moment-to-moment proposition for the individual woman. In this chapter we will discuss the idea that the meaning of labour pain to the woman may be more important than its nature or intensity in determining the balance between coping and acopia and in defining her overall experience. In doing so, we will also highlight the limitations in current conceptions of pain that cannot yet fully account for unique occurrences of pain, such as the pain of labour and childbirth.

Capsule Summary: The concepts explored in this chapter emphasise the need to attend to the individual meaning that a woman ascribes to her pain experience during labour. We suggest that by conceptualising labour pain as a productive and purposeful pain, prioritising individualised social support and attending to cognitive and emotional variables that shape a woman’s perception of pain, women may be more likely to have positive experiences of labour pain and less need for pharmacological intervention.


Labour Pain Childbirth Social support Pain cognitions Pain control Maternity care 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.La Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Singapore Institute of TechnologySingaporeSingapore

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