Factors affecting labour pain
The labour pain experienced by 101 women giving birth in a Scottish hospital was assessed by the McGill Pain Questionnaire and Visual Analogue Scales during active first stage labour and post-natally. Labour pain was found to be on average severe, but not intensely negatively affective. Its intensity varied considerably and was related to parity and the duration of the first stage of labour reflecting underlying differences in levels of noxious stimulation. Other obstetric and pharmacological factors which might affect noxious stimulation were not significantly related to pain scores. Induction was related to higher,and complications of pregnancy, to lower levels of pain attributable to psychological modulation. The desirability of pregnancy, positive and accurate expectations of birth, ante-natal training and the welcomed presence of the husband at the birth were associated with significantly lower levels of labour pain, particularly of non-sensory pain. A few subjects had very minimal previous experience of pain. These subjects had the lowest levels of pain in childbirth, perhaps because they were relatively insensitive to noxious stimulation. Subjects whose previous experience of pain had been extensive had significantly lower levels of labour pain than subjects whose previous pain experience had been more limited. Subjects who had extensive experience of pain used a larger number of strategies to cope with that pain than subjects whose experience had been more moderate. They used more strategies during labour, a greater proportion of which they had used previously. The use of a number of strategies in labour, either in combination or in sequence was related to lower levels of labour pain but not to painless childbirth. So too was the use of strategies which had been previously utilised. The relationship between previous pain experience and levels of labour pain was mediated by the differential use of coping strategies.