Pain Mastery

JuJu Sundin is one of Australia's most prominent educators in prenatal education including both childbirth preparation and holistic pregnancy fitness. Read more about her work with pain mastery.

"When I had my first child nearly 30 years ago, I had no idea what a labour resource was. Naturally, I just thought - epidural. After all that takes pain away and I didn't want to feel the pain.

I came out of that birth knowing there had to be more!

This became the turning point in my physiotherapy career. I left my general sports medicine physiotherapist practice and established a new practice in Women's Heath - developing classes in pregnancy exercise and pain mastery for labour.

Wow! What an incredible journey.

By the time I went into childbirth for the second time, I certainly knew a little more, and this helped enormously, not just in skill, but in attitude, confidence and courage.

I came out of that second birth knowing that there had to be even more. And there was!

Now almost three decades later, my pain mastery classes have been focussed on one goal only - helping women develop the resources they need to help them master labour pain.

So what are these resources and how can they help you?

Most women come into my pain mastery classes thinking that resources for labour are something very different to the resources we use for life.

Actually, they are the same, just applied a little differently.

Some examples of labour resources are touch, rubbing and massage; words and breathing and loud sounds; moving on the spot or across the room; visualisation, water, and another person supporting you, talking to you and encouraging you; selecting different positions to suit you at different times.

All of these behaviours are used for many situations and experiences in our lives for pain, stress, being cold, sad, or anxious, feeling fear, needing distraction, mentally rehearsing for an event to come, exams, meetings, challenging social events and many, many more.

These same behaviours will help you master labour pain as well.

The best way to help you understand what these resources do, is to invite you to view the following scene in labour in your imagination. It can be yourself, if you wish.

Imagine this woman at home, in the birth centre or in her hospital delivery suite. Her midwife has just been in to check on her. She is resting on a chair. She has not had a contraction, nor any pain, for five minutes.

Her partner has just given her a sip of water (many prefer raspberry leaf tea), pressed a cold flannel onto her forehead and neck, and passed her the tube of vaseline gloss for her dry lips. The hot pack has been reheated and is ready for her to place on her abdomen at the start of the next contraction. Soft music plays.

The next contraction starts.

The woman begins her breathing and relaxation. She fixes her eyes on a spot on the far wall. As the contraction builds she slowly rises from the chair and begins to sway. Her partner talks to her, telling her to relax, to breathe, to focus on the cervix opening, to let the pain do it's work, but to let the tension go, to breath faster if necessary, to make the ahhh sound if this helps more, to keep swaying, HALF WAY! good, you are doing well, keep focusing, .................................................. 15 seconds to go, relax, breathe,.......5 seconds to its gone.... great..... now sit down and rest until the next one.

Perhaps soon they will choose a different position; a different room (perhaps the shower, bath or spa), perhaps use the swiss ball, or the floor mattress. The choice is hers. Resources are all about options, as well. And so the labour proceeds, with the woman and her partner working through the contractions with their spontaneous human resources.


Whilst in class, we focus on handling this really heavy pain, say from 4-5 centimetres of dilation to 10 centimetres.

I encourage the women to practice the softer, calming, breathing and relaxation skills, over and over, at home. This helps each woman reinforce even more, the breathing, relaxation, and visualisation skills that we use in class. I like them also to hear my voice saying over and over again some of the key words and mantras they hear in class so that these are resources that are at the ready in childbirth, to help them master their pain.

These resources will help you distract from the pain. You see, when the pain increases, your attention is more likely to be drawn to it. No one likes to feel pain, so you will need activity to focus on to take your mind off it. Focusing on breathing or vocalising, working physically and mentally to relax your body and release the stress, listening to your partner's voice, particularly the mantras and key words from the CD, using your eyes to look at something, in the room or in your imagination; feeling heat, and cold and water and touching hands on your skin, will all help take your mind off the pain, keep you rhythmic, keep you focussed, keep your oxytocin flowing, and keep your endorphins mobilising.

And keep everything happening as it should.

Start to build your skills now. Relaxation, breathing, visualisation, key words and mantras will all help in labour. Repetition, repetition, repetition is the key."

To view more information about "Juju Sundin's Birth Skills with Sarah Murdoch" book, or to purchase online, click here. The book is also available at all good bookshops.