Much emphasis has been placed on the pain of childbirth, causing terror to generation after generation of expecting mothers, yet levels or degrees of the pain that women experience vary. Regardless, pregnancy and childbirth can certainly be laborious. Since Eve did not bear a child before God's punishment, it's impossible to know what sort of birthing experience she could have had, or what God may have originally had in mind for the childbearing process. Perhaps pregnancy and delivery would have been without discomfort, although it's difficult to imagine given the anatomy of females. Some understanding of the Hebrew words used might shed some light on what God said to Eve.
The word translated sorrow in 3:16 means worrisomeness, labor, toil, pain, hardship, or sorrow. The word translated conception means pregnancy. The word translated pain means labor with pangs. A pang is defined as a sudden, brief, sharp pain or physical sensation, or a spasm. This describes contractions quite accurately, which can vary in intensity. Yes, there can be pain and discomfort, ranging from mild to almost unbearable, but, thankfully, it is temporary.
Jesus taught: “A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” (John 16:21) The word translated anguish is the word that means mental pressure, or stress. In this context, it could include physical anxiety, as well. The Amplified Bible handles this verse from Genesis perhaps more accurately than other versions. “To the woman He said, I will greatly multiply your grief and your suffering in pregnancy and the pangs of childbearing; with spasms of distress you will bring forth children.”
Considering the life that Adam and Eve could have continued to live in the garden, a life of relative ease, after the expulsion from paradise both man and woman were told that life was going to get harder. God told Eve that she would have to work hard to give birth to her children, and told Adam that he would have to work hard to get food from the cursed ground. Indeed, life did get harder. But there is a day coming, as Jesus taught in John 16:22, “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”