Background: Labour pain is a major concern for women, their partners and maternity health care professionals. However, little is known about Dutch midwives' perceptions of working with women experiencing labour pain. The aim of this study was to explore midwives' perceptions of supporting women in dealing with pain during labour. Methods: We conducted a qualitative focus group study with four focus groups, including a total of 23 midwives from 23 midwifery practices across the country. Purposive sampling was used to select the practices. The constant comparison method of Glaser and Straus (1967, ren. 1995) was used to gain an understanding of midwives' perceptions regarding labour pain management. Results: We found two main themes. The first theme concerned the midwives' experienced professional role conflict, which was reflected in their approach of labour pain management along a spectrum from "working with pain" to a "pain relief" approach. The second theme identified situational factors, including time constraints; discontinuity of care; role of the partner; and various cultural influences, that altered the context in which care was provided and how midwives saw their professional role. Conclusion: Midwives felt challenged by the need to balance their professional attitude towards normal birth and labour pain, which favours working with pain, with the shift in society towards a wider acceptance of pharmacological pain management during labour. This shift compelled them to redefine their professional identity.