Things Not to Say to a Woman in Labour

Things Not to Say to a Woman in Labour

Mar 31, 2018

“You can do it.”

“Keep breathing.”

“You're doing great.”

Anyone with an ounce of empathy in their body can usually at least muster up these simple encouragements to a woman working hard in labour. However, even the most well-meaning partner, friend, or observer can slip out a quip that will earn a pillow thrown from the bed! Here are a few things never to say to a woman in labour:

“It Can't Be That Bad!”

If you're not the one whose uterine muscles are currently clamping down with everything they've got every three to five minutes, maybe don't try to downplay what she's going through.

Instead try: “I know this is hard, but you can do it!”

“Can You Keep it Down?”

Did you know that inhibiting vocal expression during labour can actually slow the process down or make it more painful? Loosening the mouth and throat helps the pelvic area loosen as well, and many moms find it easier to cope with contractions and procedures by discovering a rhythm of moans or panting.

Instead try: “That's great—on the next one, try to keep your tone really low.”

“Do You Want ______?”

A woman in active labour doesn't want anything, wants everything, and has no clue what she wants—all at the same time! Labour takes you out of your rational, decision-making brain and into your more primal brain so it may not very easy to think about multiple choice answers while you're deeply focused on getting through contractions.

Instead try: “Here, your lips are dry, take a sip of this water.”

“There's No Medal For This”

There's hardly anything more frustrating for a woman to hear, if she has chosen to attempt labour without pain medications. She's not aiming for a medal: she's just made a very personal decision about the way that she feels is right for her to bring her baby into the world, and it's important that she feels believed in, supported, and respected as the parent.

Instead try: “I'm here to support your choice.”

“How Long Is This Gonna Take? I'm Tired/Bored/Hungry”

Um, no...just, no.

“Let's Have Another One!”

Let's let the bleeding and stitches and engorgement and postpartum hair loss just kind of fade into memory for a while before planning the next little blessing, shall we?

Instead try: “You did it! Congratulations, what a beautiful baby.”

Yes, these have all been said to real moms all over the country during labour! Use our helpful suggestions, along with hiring a doula who always knows exactly when to say the right thing, and you'll leave the new mother glowing with satisfaction and gratitude for your loving support.

Loree Siermachesky works as a multi-certified labour and postpartum doula, certified Lamaze childbirth educator, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified placenta encapsulation specialist and a certified car seat technician in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. She has had the honour of attending over 1400 births in the last 20 years. She is well-known and greatly respected by the medical providers in Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Brooks, Taber, and Calgary. She cares deeply for this profession and even more for her clientele, honoring them in whatever method of birth they choose, or helping them transition to new parenthood as they wish.