This word ‘pain’ is so commonly used in association with birthing and is probably one of the biggest hurdles for a doula.  Most pregnant women talk about this, a lot, and look for understanding and reassurance from their doula.

Physical Sources of Pain:

Webster’s Dictionary defines PAIN as “physical or mental suffering”.  Ordinarily, pain is a message from your body to do something, a stimulus telling us that something is

wrong.  We tense our body instantly in preparation for action – normally, this is a healthy response to painful stimulus.  Pain during childbirth, however, is an exception.  It is the one time when pain is not the symptom of a problem and when muscular tension is a negative response rather than a helpful one.

There are various sources of pain in childbirth:

  • Any muscle will ache when it is not sufficiently oxygenated. In labour, this may happen when there is not enough time between contractions for the uterus to receive plenty of oxygen to replenish the uterine muscle.  A woman can change this by:
  • (a) breathing slowly and calmly between contractions
  • (b) beginning and ending every contraction with a deep cleansing breath and (c) breathing in an easy, relaxed manner during contractions.


  • If the cervix is slow to open. The baby’s head presses through the cervix as if a tight sweater were being pulled over it.  The cervix is very flexible and will open up more and more, but this takes time and some women find the stretching uncomfortable or painful.


  • The physical sensation of the baby’s rotation and descent through the pelvis.  The hormones of pregnancy have a lubricating and softening effect on muscle, tissue, ligaments and joints, which is helpful during the birth.  However, some babies are large and it takes them time to squeeze through the pelvis.


  • Pressure on the urethra and bladder. The pressure of the baby’s head on the bladder can be quite painful.  It is important to keep the bladder as empty as possible.


Lack of emotional and physical preparation.  Practising relaxation, visualization and hypnosis (Inside Birth® techniques) and other comfort measures for labour helps the body create a physical memory that will be helpful during labour, enabling the woman to focus all of her energy on the powerful work of childbirth.