John Walton has posted an interesting discussion concerning the topic of pain in childbearing in Genesis 3:16. Walston concludes that,
The conclusion to be drawn from these observations is that the first half of the verse is an extended merism (two endpoints used to refer to everything in between, e.g., “soup to nuts”) referring to the anxiety that the woman will experience through the whole process from conception to birth. This would include the anxiety about whether she will be able to conceive a child or not (major status issue in the biblical world); the anxiety that comes with all the physical discomfort of pregnancy; the anxiety concerning the health of the child in the womb; and the anxiety about whether she and the baby will survive the birth process. In all of these we must agree that anxiety defines the birth process, even in a world of modern technology and much moreso in the uncertain medical climate of the ancient world. The resulting paraphrase would be “I will greatly increase the anguish you will experience in the birth process, from the anxiety surrounding conception to the strenuous work of giving birth.” This cannot be viewed as an imposition of labor pains.You can read the entire post here.