Keeping an open mind
The great thing about labor contractions is that they have a definite tendency to start off slowly and not very painfully. When your labor begins, you are likely to feel a sensation similar to heavy menstrual cramps or slightly more painful Braxton Hicks contractions. Most women can handle these first contractions very well, and you might even be wondering what the big deal is. The strength of contractions does, gradually, increase. They grow more closely together, and after a while will take all your concentration. When a contraction has finished, you will probably feel just fine. Because there is really no way of knowing whether you will experience labor as no big deal or as excruciatingly painful, keeping an open mind about pain medication and how you will feel is a good approach for most women. You can also prepare by taking childbirth education classes or learning about patterned breathing. Epidural anesthesia usually takes most of the pain away, but there are also other options like IV medications or gas and air (popular in the UK).
I have given birth without any pain medications twice now. For me, labor and birth were interesting experiences that did take me for a very intense ride. Because the pain stops after a contraction, and you know that it will get worse as time goes on, I feel that coping with the discomfort as not hard. When you are prepared, it is easier to deal. Labor does hurt. You won't forget immediately after birth, when you hold your sweet babe in arms although many people say you do. But, in my experience, labor is totally doable and not really that bad. It is the postpartum period healing from an episiotomy or a tear, and feeling like your lady parts will explode every time you take a pee that was much was for me. But you'll get over that, as well. If you can't cope or simply don't think you want to experience pain, there are plenty of options to help you with that, thankfully!