This research aims to explore how gender, motherhood and labour pain are connected in the Netherlands. By taking the unique labour pain culture in the Netherlands as a starting point, the structures that construct gender and motherhood and the ways these are performed are unravelled. Using feminist theories, concepts and methods, the discourse around labour pain is analyzed and interviews were conducted in order to answer the question: How are gender and motherhood performed in the labour pain culture in the Netherlands? The results show that women in the Netherlands face high expectations. In the process of labour, but also during motherhood, her own self ‘vanishes’ and she is expected to sacrifice herself for the sake of her child. In this web of structures and expectations, women don’t question the practice of going through labour without pain relief and believe pain is positive and a necessary part of labour. Thereby, pain plays a role in the performativity of gender and (good) motherhood.

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Maja Hertoghs, Willem Schinkel
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Helmers, H. (2020, June 21). “We just do what we have to” Exploring gender, motherhood and labour pain in the Netherlands. Sociology. Retrieved from