There’s lots of debate around this one. After the Fall, in Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve, “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children.” The Genesis author thus portrays labor pains as the consequence of original sin.
Catholics, however, believe that Mary was conceived without original sin: “[Mary] was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.” (CCC 411). Given that, many conclude that she would not have suffered labor pains. This view was held by many early Church Fathers, and was mentioned in the Catechism of the Council of Trent.
That said, other theologians dispute this logic. If, as the Church teaches, baptism frees us from original sin, then shouldn’t all baptized women be free of labor pains? Equating labor pains with sinfulness also seems to imply that women with difficult labors are more sinful than those with easier ones. On the other hand, it’s possible that God could have granted Mary a pain-free delivery as a special privilege.
In the end, it’s worth remembering that the Church has not made a dogmatic statement on the question. Although the Church teaches that Christ’s birth was a virgin birth, the details of the delivery itself are open to speculation.
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is the author of Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. You can visit her blog atwww.blog.maryandme.org