Words of Encouragement for Laboring Women

10 Things to Say to During Labor

Couple at the hospital in labor

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In general words of encouragement for pregnant women can make a meaningful difference. However, if you take that one step further and think about what it means in labor - you have got a bigger picture. Pregnancy is long, but labor, while shorter in time, is much more intense and the words you use will make a meaningful difference.

Comfort in Labor

Comfort in labor comes in many forms, though most of the time we tend to think about physical comfort measures and pain relieving medications. A very easy way for nearly anyone to help comfort a laboring woman is to talk to her. These kind words really help and work with her she is having an unmedicated birth or a birth with an epidural. Words and how they are said can make a huge difference in how she remembers her experience of labor and birth.

10 Things to Say in Labor

  1. Hang in there!
    1. This phrase provides a note of support without a lot of pressure, this phrase is a very generic one, but can get you out of a bind if you're not sure what else to say. However, if you overuse it, watch out, it may actually backfire on you.
  2. You're doing a great job.
    1. She may not believe you, even if it's true. Her experience of what is going on in labor feels much different than what you're seeing. This means she may feel out of control while she looks calm and collected. Try reminding her of what she's doing and why this can be beneficial.
  3. I love you.
    1. This seems pretty obvious, but sometimes the show of emotional vulnerability from her partner means so much more at this time. Remember to tell her this often. Doulas often remind the families of their clients to tell the laboring person this as labor progresses. Some partners report feeling an overwhelming sense of love as they watch labor progress. 
  4. Think of the baby...
    1. For a mother who wants to be reminded of the baby in labor, which is easier than you think to forget about, this can be helpful. You might also use a similar phrase agreed upon in labor. You can also encourage her to picture the baby, is that's acceptable to her. It's a great way to work in a visualization for comfort as well. You can simply ask her about specific things that may matter to her or of general relevance. An example would be asking: Do you think that this baby will have a lot of hair when they are born?
  1. You're going to be a great mother.
    1. Sometimes laboring women have fears, including what kind of a mother they will be. If she's concerned about this, be sure to ask ahead of time to find out what her specific fear is and use an affirmation to help ease that fear. An example might be worrying that she won't know what to do: You and your baby will work together to learn what each other needs.
  2. Awesome!
    1. A nice quick word to whisper in her ear when she's got very low concentration levels. You can use almost any single word with a similar meaning. Think: great, good, wow... Use whatever word feels right at the time. This is great for the transition part of labor when the contractions are coming quickly and her attention is waning.
  3. Keep going...
    1. A nod of approval during a long labor, as in "I know you're tired, but you're doing great, so keep going..." You may also consider saying something active, like: "You've got this..." or "You're ______!" Insert whatever adjective that is appropriate for a bit longer of a phrase. This is obviously personalized to the laboring person at that moment.
  1. I'm here for you.
    1. You're not leaving her side, be sure she knows that. Sometimes you may be physically slightly separated by a birth tub or medical personnel, let your voice be a reminder to her that you're still there for her. There are also various ways to say this including, "I'm not going anywhere and I'm right here."
  2. Just a bit more...
    1. Use this one only if you're reasonably sure that it's true. Otherwise, you lose your credibility. Ask a nearby professional for some help here and know they are guessing too. While there are sometimes that you can be reasonably sure that the baby is about to be born, it's a guessing game. A word of caution, don't look back on how far you've come. That may feel overwhelming to someone in labor. Just a sneak peek of what's ahead: Tonight you're going to be snuggling your new baby!
  3. You are doing it!
    1. This can be a great encouragement when she's pushing. It can really convey power and excitement. You can also help her see the baby via a mirror, or touch the baby's head as it emerges if she wants. This can help her understand what you're seeing versus what she's feeling in labor

    What you say is very important. There are also a few things that you shouldn't say to a laboring woman. Keeping in mind that, with these few exceptions, you can really do very little wrong.

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