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060: How to Manage Pregnancy and Postpartum Pain Without Medications with Beth Darnall

chronic pain and pregnancy or postpartum pain management without medication

Pregnancy comes with so many aches and pains, as does recovering from delivery. But many women are reluctant to, or unable to, take medications that can help alleviate their pain leaving them in misery for weeks, months and sometimes years.

The reality is, most pain can be managed quite effectively, without medications at all and that's what Beth Darnall, pain psychologist. and I explore on this episode. If you're living with endometriosis, fibroids, sciatica pain, SPD, mastitis or pain from healing from delivery (or any other type of pain), this episode will leave you feeling empowered about your pain management (and no longer a victim to your pain).


Episode highlights...

  • How Dr. Darnall's experience with chronic pain lead to her challenging the traditional notion of pain and pain management

  • She discusses her history with catastrophizing her pain

  • She shares how a sudden death of a loved one exacerbated her pain and how she quickly realized Vicodin wasn't the answer

  • Her take on the polarizing conversation: opiods vs no opiods to help manage pain

  • The biggest myth about pain that patients and medical professionals believe: pain is a passive process

  • How that leads to only treating half of the pain experience when following traditional pain treatment protocols

  • The definition of pain by the International Association for the Study of Pain that highlights exactly how pain should be understood and managed effectively (and how it is not right now)

  • How your mindset, mood and thoughts affect how much pain you feel, how long you feel it and how much you suffer during it

  • Dr. Darnall answers the question "Is pain in your head?" Yes and no

  • The purpose of pain is to act as a warning signal that you need to escape a dangerous (potentially lethal) situation

  • When the pain is internal and not due to an external circumstance (like being bitten by a dog) it creates a biological cascade that perpetuates distress and pain.

  • The exact ways we have more control than we realize to manage our pain by changing our brains and our nervous system

  • Using the analogy of pouring gasoline on a campfire to show how we make our pain experience better or worse

  • The difference between men and women and how we process pain and how it used to be evolutionarily advantageous but now makes our pain experiences more challenging

  • How stress impacts pain levels and pain experience (HINT: It's in more ways than one)

  • The details of the self-perpetuating cycle of pain including feelings of helplessness, ruminating on pain and how it affects your nervous system to create more pain

  • All pain has a medical basis but you can gain control and alter your experience of it

  • When practicing behavioral interventions to manage pain, remember that your brain is a muscle you have to train for long-term relief

  • All strategies will give you short term relief but long-term relief comes from turning strategies into daily habits

  • The relaxation response when activated in your nervous system promotes healing in the body

  • The #1 goal is to retrain the mind and body away from pain and the pain experience

  • How long, on average, it takes to alter the structure and function of your brain and central nervous system to change the experience and expression of pain

  • Her top 2 tips you can try right now to for medication-free pain relief in 20 minutes per day

You are not helpless against your pain. By using the power of your mind and body you can get in control of your pain even if you are pregnant.

Resources from the show...

  • Visit Dr. Beth Darnall's website at

  • Read Beth Darnall's books on pain management (Learn more)

  • How to overcome your fear and anxiety to help you have a healthy high-risk pregnancy (Register for free)

  • Get your copy of Pregnancy Brain: A Mind-Body Approach to Stress Management During a High-Risk Pregnancy (Read Now)

  • Stay in touch with me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


The onus is on us to use as little medications as possible to manage our pain (Tweet that!)

A big part of pain management is learning how to control your stress (Tweet that!)

About the Guest

Beth Darnall, PhD is Clinical Professor at Stanford University. She is principal investigator for $13M in federal research that is investigating psychological treatment for chronic pain. She is passionate about educating patients and healthcare clinicians about effective, low-risk, low-cost strategies to reduce pain and suffering. She is author of 3 books: The Opioid-Free Pain Relief Kit, Less Pain, Fewer Pills: Avoid the dangers of prescription opioids and gain control over chronic pain, and Psychobehavioral Treatment for Chronic Pain: The Evidence-Based Basics, available in 2018. She has been featured in TIME magazine, the Washington Post and Scientific American Mind.

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