This study investigated the relationship between women's expectations of control during labour and the experience of childbirth. The women's expectations about their personal ability and about the ability of the staff to exercise control over, labour were examined. It was predicted that women who attended childbirth preparation classes would be less anxious about, and anticipate more control over, labour than non-attenders. Among the attenders, perceived personal control was expected to be related to self-reports of a more satisfying and less painful birth, while among the non-attenders beneficial effects were expected to be associated with greater perceived staff control. It was found that class attendance was associated with enhanced perception of personal and staff control but not with decreased anxiety. Class attendance and perceptions of personal and staff control predicted less painful (but not more satisfying) labour. A multiple regression analysis indicated that in the sample as a whole, perception of staff control was the single best predictor of reported discomfort. As expected, this was not equally true of attenders and non-attenders. Perceived staff control was a better predictor of reported discomfort in non-attenders while among class attenders perceptions of personal control were closely associated with the later reported experience of discomfort.