Did the Church ever condemn pain relief in childbirth?


I remember having an argument with someone once about the Church’s teaching being infallible, and she stated that the Church used to teach that pain relief during childbirth was sinful. She said the Church taught this in the 1950’s or 60’s, when hospital births became commonplace, but the Church reversed its teaching very quickly because nobody followed it.

Does anyone have any evidence to support or refute this claim?


The Church declared something not sinful b/c everyone did it?
Doesn’t sound like the Church to me.


If the claim is not true, how could you possibly find evidence to refute it? The Church probably does not have an official statement saying that medication during child birth is now and always has been a part of the Church’s tradition. The burden of proof is really on her to provide you with some sort of documentation to back up these claims.

Perhaps she is recalling some individual Catholic hospital from that time frame that had a hospital policy that women should not be given medication during childbirth (in which case their motivation would have more likely been that they believed the medication could be harmful to the baby rather than that is was “sinful”).


Hospital births became the norm in the 1920s.

I can’t vouch for this article, but it suggests that religious objections to pain relief are mythical. Same here from the Catholic wing.


Thanks very much for that, most informative.


Whatever did we do before google?


If the pain relief for childbirth was objected for the purpose of being pain relief, the Church would probably have a problem with any pain relief. It clearly does not. When JP II was dying, he was given plenty of pain relief in those last days.


we made it up our selves rather that finding someone else to make it up for us … :thumbsup:


As far as I know, the Catholic Church has never been opposed to pain relief during childbirth.
However, there was a period of time in the 19th Century, when there was a great deal of controversy round this subject in the Church of England. That ended when Queen Victoria, who was about to give birth to another child, announced, more or less:“I"m the queen, and I’m taking the medicine!”
:shrug: Somehow, this has been turned into a story about Catholicism.


One reason I haunt these forums is that even though I am a smarty-pants know-it-all, I learn so much. This is not one of the burning theological issues that smacks me in the face every day, but it IS one of those things that I HAVE come across in the past, and I am delighted to have found out a little something about the history of this myth.

Our 80-year-old former Chair of our Department of Surgery (now in our Department of Health Policy) always says: A day when I don’t learn something new is a bad day.

So it’s NEVER a bad day on CAF!

So thanks, DL82 for the question!


the burden of proof is on OPs friend who made the allegation, and OP should remind her of the classic rule of apologetics (and of the justice system) that in order to make a charge or allegation stand up, you must provide the evidence.


As far back as I can remember it was usual for women to receive medication (saddle block) to relieve pain during childbirth. In the 50’s a man Grantly **** Reid ( my spelling) wrote a book on natural childbirth that advocated no drugs. I remember getting it from the U. of I. library for my wife to read in 1960. Natural Childbirth was kind of a movement back then. It worked quite well for her through the birth of our six children. I suspect a lot of the principles are still in use today. It had nothing to do with any church rule against medication during childbirth. I would suspect that there may have been “bible based churches” which frowned upon relieving the pain of childbirth.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.