Break the fear-tension-pain cycle and have an easier childbirth

Have you ever gone to a new school or started a new job where you didn’t know much about what you were getting into?  Did it make you more nervous?

When I am going into something new, I like to ask a lot of questions to know what to expect.  Before I decided to attend the midwifery program that I chose, I asked the director of the school a lot about it.  (She told me later that she had felt a bit intimidated by all the questions!)

Expectations are also a big part of how satisfied we are with an experience.  Even after all those questions I asked, there were a couple very minor let-downs when I arrived at the school due to my preconceived notions.  But because I knew what to expect overall, I was very satisfied with how it turned out.

Seventy-one years ago, a British obstetrician named Grantly Dick-Read published an important book called Childbirth Without Fear, which is still in print. He said that when a pregnant woman is fearful of birth, it makes her tense, and the tension increases the pain.  Then the pain increases the fear, and the cycle goes around. Fear-Tension-Pain cycle

He got into this new way of thinking about obstetrics when he took care of a patient in labor who consistently refused medicine for pain relief, and after the birth when he asked her why, she said, “It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t meant to, was it, doctor?”

Just the understanding of the normalcy of birth reduces or sometimes prevents the pain!  Our minds are amazingly powerful.  Though I don’t believe you can just create any reality you want to dream up, I do recognize that the thoughts in our head and the stories we have heard have a big effect on how we feel about what we are experiencing in life.

Two people could hypothetically experience the exact same event but feel differently about it.

In thinking about which of the 67 tips for an easier labor to start my series off with, I wondered whether, if I started with this one, people would feel it wasn’t down-to-earth and practical.  But I put it first anyway, because it is such an overarching and important one.  If you understand the process of birth, you will be more relaxed and able to experience and interpret the contractions in a different way.

Birth is a very normal event that we have made into a medical event.  Billions of women have given birth before you, and that’s how you got here! And very, very few of them had the technological system that we have today, yet they still got through it.

Of course things do go wrong, and we are blessed that when there is a complication we can have care providers there to recognize it and to do things to try to restore it to normal.  But despite all our modern advances, we still are not able to replicate what God did in designing women’s bodies to have babies.

So what are some ways expectant parents can prepare themselves before conception or during pregnancy for the big event? How to dive into learning more about the miracle of childbirth?

Taking a childbirth class is a great way to start. Look for one that spends plenty of time on the natural process and coping strategies, not just on what gadgets and procedures to expect in the hospital.

Read a book or two—I’ve listed a few below.

Watch some childbirth videos on or

Read positive birth stories.

A few awesome books I recommend:

The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth (Revised), by Sheila Kitzinger.  A great balanced, all-around guide.  One reviewer says the author writes with “an attitude of respect, encouragement, and assurance. It made me feel good about being a woman, about being pregnant, and about giving birth. The entire tone of the book makes me think that childbirth is an awe-inspiring process to be enjoyed, not a painful ordeal to be dreaded.”

Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation, by Pam England and Rob Horowitz.  “…a holistic approach to childbirth that examines this profound rite-of-passage not as a medical event but as an act of self-discovery.”  There are childbirth preparation classes based on this book too.

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn (4th Edition): The Complete Guide, by Penny Simkin, et al.  A million plus-copy seller with abundant, valuable information about pregnancy, labor, birth, the postpartum period, and newborn care.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin.   One reviewer said, “Reading this book will make you feel confident about your body’s ability to give birth, as well as positive and excited about the birth experience.”  Another said, “I’m 17 weeks pregnant, and while I’m overjoyed to be pregnant…I’ve always been afraid of the pain I’ll experience during childbirth. Reading Ina May’s book, and the birth stories of the women in it, has changed all of that. I feel that I can handle labor now…”

(Purchase of items through links in this post help to support this blog.)

Check out this video explaining why women have different lengths of labor:

What other suggestions do you have for understanding childbirth?  If you don’t see the reply box, click on the title of this post and then comment at the bottom.


  1. […] just one example of how you can take charge of your birth care.  Another is getting educated about birth to reduce your fear and therefore your […]

  2. […] is one of the top five natural ways to have a more comfortable labor and birth.  (Another one is educating yourself about birth). Countless women have experienced the great relief that sinking into a pool of warm water can […]

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