Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Nursing Honours


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Patricia Percival


Pain is a subjective phenomenon and is, in varying degrees, an inherent part of the childbirth experience. However, most Western societies view suffering as unacceptable and as such, regard analgesia as a necessity. Many women do not anticipate the intensity of pain experienced in childbirth and are, therefore, not ready to manage this amount of pain when it occurs. This prospective study compared the expected and experienced labour pain of 99 primiparous women, aged 17-40 years. The relationship between expected and experienced pain and acceptance of pregnancy; identification with the motherhood role; relationship with mother; relationship with husband/partner; preparation for labour (knowledge); fear of pain, helplessness and loss of control in labour; concern for the well-being of self and baby; age, and obstetric history was also investigated. The Prenatal Self Evaluation Inventory was completed at 35-39 weeks gestation. Visual Analogue Scales and the Present Pain Intensity of the McGill Pain Questionnaire assessed I) the expected pain, prenatally, and 2) the experienced pain, intrapartum (Bern cervical dilatation) and two hours postpartum. A significant difference was found between expected pain and pain experienced during early and transitional labour. Generally, the level of pain expected was that of active labour and not the intensity of reported pain experienced in transitional labour. The findings demonstrated positive correlations between expected pain and pain reported in early and transitional labour. A positive relationship was revealed between conflict in the relationship with mother, fear of pain, helplessness and loss of control during labour and expected pain. Women with less preparation for labour were more likely to expect increased pain. There was also a positive relationship between conflict in the acceptance of the pregnancy, concern for the well-being of self and the baby, one or more terminations of pregnancy and experienced childbirth pain. A profile of women more likely to experience increased pain was developed. Caregivers should direct interventions and strategies towards women with this profile in order to prepare women more realistically for childbirth pain.