There are many ways of managing the pain of labour so that it doesn't overwhelm you.
Some methods involve relaxing and 'working with the pain' so that you can make best use of your body's own coping mechanisms.
Other methods are pharmacological and simply stop, or dull, the pain messages before they reach your brain. It's also important to create the right atmosphere in which to experience labour and to maintain a positive approach.
Feeling happy with your environment and supported by your companions can make a real difference, because it encourages the release of your body's own pain-relieving endorphins.
As your body adapts to the physical stresses of pregnancy so endorphin levels rise and they continue to do so during labour, peaking at the transition between the first and second stage when contractions can be most painful. During the second stage of labour, endorphin levels remain high to help you push the baby out.
If you are stressed or frightened, your body will produce adrenalin, which slows labour down. It really does help to have constant support during labour from someone you trust and to be in an environment that you find comforting.
If you're having a home birth, you can arrange your surroundings to suit yourself, but in hospital you may need to bring things like extra pillows, or a bean bag with you. If it's night-time, switch off the overhead lights and just leave the examination lamp on, facing away from you. The hormones fuelling labour are produced more readily when the environment is dark and peaceful with minimal activity and conversation.