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The Purpose of Childbirth Pain, with Rhea Dempsey

The Birthful Podcast: Episode #78

Today we’ll be rethinking birth pain! It’s not called labor for nothing, but is there a purpose to the pain? What happens when you stop thinking of birth as an emergency, and start seeing it as a physiological emergence? If you assume that your confidence will falter, then, can preparing differently help you have a better experience? Rhea Dempsey tells us more. Check it out.

To listen here, click the play button on the player above, or click the button below to listen in iTunes.


What we talked about:

  • What we learned from school P.E.: functional physiological pain for peak performance
  • What we learned from doctor’s visits: pathological pain means danger or disease
  • Physiological pain is not the same as pathological pain
  • Birth as physiology or pathology?
  • Can you shift your thinking to embrace the pain?
  • Is there a purpose to the pain?
  • Bringing on big and escalating contractions to tip over the endorphin system
  • What does this have to do with labor-land?
  • Like in a marathon: you will hit a wall (or two, or three)
  • Is there a timing to these “walls”, and how do you get past them?
  • Getting your support system in place to truly help you
  • We CAN do hard things (even if we don’t like it)
  • The three cultural C’s that hijack births (and are enabled through technology)
  • Why not avoid the pain altogether?
  • Approaching your birth from this new paradigm for a more satisfying birth
  • The “crisis of confidence” dynamics, and what you can do about it


This episode is brought to you by Natural Breastfeeding,
and their FREE Quick Start Video. Go watch it at



Resources, links, and other great info:

Courtesy of Rhea Dempsey.
Courtesy of Rhea Dempsey.

About Rhea Dempsey

Rhea is a passionate woman of birth; she is an educator, trainer, doula, birth activist, counselor, speaker and author of “Birth with Confidence: Savvy choices for normal birth“.

Her understanding and experience of birth has been gained over almost forty years of birth work; supporting birthing women, their partners and families at over one thousand births in home and hospital settings.

She is the mother of three adult daughters and grandmother to three delicious grandchildren—so far!

Connect with Rhea at, or follow the conversation on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram



Like the music on the podcast?:

Title music:Vibe Aceby Kevin MacLeod, from the Free Music Archive / CC BY (edited for length).

Sponsorship music:Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie, from the Free Music Archive / CC BY (edited for length).

Adriana Lozada