Dealing With Boredom During a Long Labor

Mom and Dad in Labor
Photo © Lillian Elaine Wilson/Getty Images

Labor is not the thrill a minute that television shows and movies can portray it to be. In fact, much of labor is sitting around and waiting. You are usually waiting for the next contraction, which in the early part of labor can be 15-20 minutes apart. This is a lot of waiting time.

One of the problems with waiting is the emotional toll it can take. This is particularly true if you are doing nothing but waiting. Staying busy between the contractions or if you’ve had medications, like an epidural, can help you keep your wits about you. So what are you supposed to do to stay busy? Try one of these activities:​

Tell Jokes

This may sound really silly, but jokes can be just what the doctor or midwife ordered. I will never forget when I learned this at birth. The mother was seven centimeters and right after a contraction was over she leaned over to me, grabbed my arm and said, “Tell me a joke!” I quickly recalled one from my then fourth-grade son. She smiled, chuckled a bit and relaxed back. After the next contraction, she did much the same, though this time demanded a joke from her husband. We went back and forth like this for two hours. She even had the nurses cracking jokes because her husband and I were running out of jokes to tell her. So consider packing a joke book or bookmarking some joke sites. This mom later told us that this helped her relax so much in between contractions.

Play Games

Playing games is a great way to take up some time and yet use up the mental energy that would normally be spent ruminating over labor and wondering where that next contraction was or when the baby would get here. One thing I love about playing games in labor is that there are so many options, that there is usually at least one game or two that really works well for a family. Things to keep in mind about playing games in labor would be:

  1. How far apart are the contractions that need your attention?
    1. If they are pretty close together, you’ll want to pick a game that offers quick turns. The same can be said for mental activity, think chess versus tic tac toe.
  2. Is laughter a good thing?
    1. If you enjoy laughing and think it will help, consider games that are laughter-inducing. This can really help calm everyone’s nerves.
  3. How much movement is required?
    1. As the questions about contraction length, a good question is how much movement is required. For example, charades take up a lot more space and require a lot more movement than say a card game.


If you like to write, the lull in between contractions or from the period of receiving an epidural to when you need to push may give you a chance to reflect. Perhaps you would write a letter to the baby, a journal entry, talk on Twitter or Facebook, or even address birth announcements. Whether you use your computer, a phone or a pen and paper, this can keep you emotionally and mentally occupied.

Watch a Movie

Another way to stay occupied and keep from being bored is to watch a movie. This is great to do in early labor or if you’ve had an epidural because it’s a longer venture. You can usually bring something to watch on your computer or phone. I wouldn’t count on your place of birth having too much by way of movies. Though many hospitals offer televisions, with varying amounts of shows. A shorter show may be great if you need to stop to pay attention to contractions. Be sure someone else has the remote and be sure that they understand that the television or computer goes off at the baby time.


Yes, sleep if you can. This holds true no matter where you are in labor or where you physically are located, home or place of birth. This is particularly true if it’s a time of day that you would normally be sleeping. Don’t let the excitement of the thought of labor keep you up, you won’t sleep through the birth and being awake won’t make the baby come any faster. In fact, it’s a great way to wear yourself out. It’s also a great time for partners to rest as well, or get some food and water.

Closing Thoughts

Whether you plan to use any of these ideas or not, it never hurts to have one or two tucked away in case you need it. This is particularly useful if you have a longer labor, which most people won’t know until they are in the middle of it.

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