Pain vs. Suffering: Full Spectrum Doula Skills To Address Pain & Prevent Suffering


Pain vs. Suffering

Most people experience some pain with the physiologic process of pregnancy release. This pain does not have to result in suffering. Suffering is a result of our beliefs, perception, and how we choose to respond to pain.

Whether it be physical, emotional, or psychological, pain is always a valuable form of communication.

“Do not think of it as pain, think of it as an interesting sensation that requires all your attention”

~ Ina May Gaskin

Pain exists biologically to send signals from our nervous system to our consciousness that something is wrong or something needs to change. The message being communicated by the pain will inform the person experiencing it exactly what needs to change and how they need to move in order to best find balance and reestablish the flow of vitality.

Multiple clinical studies have found that the anticipation of pain creates even more suffering than the actual experience of pain (1). Mindfulness techniques that place the individual more fully in the present moment rather than worrying about what will happen next can reduce or even eliminate suffering. “One breath at a time” is a phrase that is used often by birth support people that translates seamlessly to all pregnancy release experiences. Encouraging a perspective that places the individual as an active participant in their experience is another technique for reducing suffering. Breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, and any number of the holistic healing tools listed in the following pages can support individuals in claiming their experiences and embodiment in such a way that they can say “I am doing this,” rather than “this is happening to me”.



Comfort Measures for Pain Management


Comfort measures may do one or all of the following:

  1. Reduce the pain at its source
  2. Increase other pleasant or neutral sensations
  3. Engage the individual in activities that focus attention on something besides pain

Some comfort measures that birth support people and doulas are likely familiar with that may aid in addressing pain in any pregnancy release experience include:

  • Movement and position changes
  • Visualization
  • Breathing
  • Sound / Music
  • Touch and massage
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Heat and cold
  • Aromatherapy


The above is an excerpt from the doula skills module of my Miscarriage & Abortion Support e-course  If you’d like to receive the extensive resource section of my Miscarriage & Abortion Support course as a free gift, enter your info in the window below. Enrollment is now open for this course, for more details & to register follow this link.

(1) Stary, G., (2014, May). Anticipating pain is worse than feeling it. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from


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