The labor and birth process can be very different for each woman. Most women will go into labor between the 37th and 40th week of their pregnancy. Be mindful of how far along you are at all times, in the event that you go into premature labor this will be the first question asked when you arrive at the hospital. If you are less than 37 weeks along and you experience contractions, your doctor may tell you that you need to stay off your feet until you have reached full-term.
Labor is defined as regular contractions with cervical change. Pain during labor is recognized and expected as part of the birth process. How one experiences, approaches and expectations of pain varies between individuals and cultures.
In some cultures the pain with labor is expected and perceived as normal part of the process the women relies more on support systems during the labor process. In cultures where there is influence on interventions for pain, analgesics and pain medicines are given more readily.
However with every intervention there then becomes more and more added risks and potentiates the risk for complications. If you compare the U.S. which has many interventions for women in labor to other countries that do not use as many interventions you will find that the U.S. has higher infant death rates than other developed countries. You will also find that even some of the underdeveloped countries even have better health outcomes when compared to the United States. The Centers for Disease Control has a PDF detailing how the United States has more infant deaths than many European Countries.
One of the best things a women can do for the labor experience is to prepare for the experience. This can be to take some prenatal classes, prepare a birth plan and seeking out a support person that will help you in labor.