A prospective survey of 1091 Finnish parturients was conducted in order to ascertain mothers' expectations for labour pain relief, to measure the actual pain during all three stages of labour and to question their satisfaction and the adequacy of pain relief on the third day following delivery. Antenatal expectations for pain relief were surveyed. Mothers were questioned on pain levels in the delivery room and 3 days after giving birth. Pain levels were ascertained using a visual pain score method. Antenatally, 90% of all parturients anticipated a need for pain relief during labour. In the delivery room over 80% of all parturients described their pain as very severe to intolerable, only 4% of the multiparous had low pain scores (0-2). After pain treatment 50% of multiparous women still had pain scores from 8 to 10, which reflects a lack of effective pain relief. Dissatisfaction with the childbirth experience was very low, and was associated with instrumental deliveries, but not with the usage of analgesia. 51% of all parturients complained of inadequate pain relief during childbirth, which, in multiparous women, was significantly associated with the second stage of labour.