Dealing With Boredom During a Long Labor

Woman resting during a long labor
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Labor is not the constant thrill that television shows and movies often 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 to 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 during them, if you’ve had medications like an epidural) can help you stay calm and centered.

Tell Jokes

This may sound really silly, but jokes can be just what the doctor or midwife ordered. Trading jokes can help a laboring mom relax, and smiling or laughing might even relieve pain. So consider packing a joke book or bookmarking some joke sites.

Play Games

Games can help pass time and also use the mental energy that would normally be spent ruminating over labor. Games can distract a laboring mom and her partner from wondering where the next contraction is or when the baby will arrive. And there are so many options for board games and card games. Consider:

  • How far apart are the contractions that need your attention? 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. If you have longer to wait or need more distraction, think chess versus tic tac toe.
  • Is laughter a good thing? If you enjoy laughing and think it will help, consider funny games. They can really help calm everyone’s nerves.
  • How much movement is required? Obviously, a game like charades takes up a lot more space and requires a lot more movement than a card game.


If you like to write, the lull in between contractions or from the time you receive an epidural to when you need to push may give you a chance to reflect. You could write a letter to your baby, a journal entry, a text to some friends, or a few Twitter or Facebook updates. You could even address birth announcement envelopes. Whether you use your computer, a phone, or a pen and paper, these tasks can keep you mentally occupied.


If you knit, crochet, sew, or enjoy other crafty activities, you might want to keep supplies or an incomplete project handy for while you're in labor. If you haven't had the chance to finish a scrapbook or quilt you were making for your baby, you have time now!

Watch a Movie

Movies work well in early labor or if you’ve had an epidural because you have a lot of time to kill. You can usually bring something to watch on your computer or phone. Don't count on your hospital center or birthing center to have a lot of movies.

A shorter TV show may be better if you need to stop to pay attention to contractions. Be sure someone else has the remote and they understand that the television or computer goes off at baby time.


Yes, sleep if you can. This holds true no matter what stage of labor you are in or where you physically are, whether at home or at a hospital or birthing center. And it is particularly important to try to sleep if it’s a time when you would normally be sleeping.

Don’t let the excitement of labor keep you up. You won’t sleep through the birth and being awake won’t make the baby come any faster. So anytime you have a chance to rest, take it. This goes for partners as well.

A Word From Verywell

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

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.