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11 things NOT to say to a woman in labour

Man having his mouth taped up during labour“Be quiet”

“It can’t be that bad”

“Mind if I nip home to feed the dogs?”

There are a few obvious things you shouldn’t say to a labouring woman (see above) but all women and circumstances are different so what will drive one woman crazy won’t raise an eyebrow from another.

The key is to be supportive, give encouragement (you’re doing great) rather than sympathy or empathy (“I know how you feel” probably won’t go down well … ) and to be there completely for her.

It won’t help her to know that you’re tired, bored, that your back hurts or that you’re missing the game!

We asked our members to share their examples of what not to say to a woman during labour (and some things you should say). Here are their tips – all are based on their own real-life experiences.

11 things you shouldn’t say to a woman in labour …

1. “Are you sure?”

Never doubt a labouring woman … if she says it is time to head to the hospital then it probably is. If she says she needs to push then she probably does.

2. “OMG! What is THAT!!??”

Also not recommended is “Omg that’s gross. I’m not going down there again”. Yeah, labour and birth isn’t pretty but the last thing she needs is to feel self-conscious. Best not to finish any sentence that starts with “Oh My God!”

3. “Be quiet … “

If she feels like screaming then let her. She probably won’t be worrying about what the other labouring women will think of her or whether her throat will feel a bit sore afterwards.

4. “My neck is really really sore”

Really? Your neck is sore? Sorry, but she probably won’t care too much while her body is preparing to push a brand new human out of her vagina. She might feel like breaking your neck if she hears you say something like this. You also might want to avoid the following phrases: “I’ve never been so tired in my life!”, “I just need a break!”, “my back hurts” and “I’m hungry”.

5. “Don’t forget to breathe”

Now is not the time to be Captain Obvious. She won’t forget to breathe, so no need to worry. Other phrases that probably don’t need to be said are: “Look, look, you’re having a contraction” (while pointing at the monitor), “just breathe”, “are you having a contraction? Is that another one?”, “are you OK?” …

6. “Hurry up I’m missing the game”

There are two things wrong with that sentence. Never tell a woman in labour to “hurry up”, there’s not a woman in the world who’d prolong labour given the choice … not that they have the choice. Secondly, no ‘game’ is more important than the birth of your child. It’s best to give your partner your complete attention – you can think about other less important stuff, just don’t talk about them. And don’t, like one Bub Hub partner, ring the DVD repairman to organise a time to pick up your DVD player! Another asked his partner …  “You’ll be OK for an hour while I pop home to feed the dogs won’t you?”.

7. “It wouldn’t be called labour if it was easy!”

Hilarious! But the labour ward is no place for your amateur stand-up routine. Talk about a tough crowd huh? Other jokes to avoid include anything that involves making animal noises and anything that resembles the following: “Look! You’re having a hairy cauliflower”, “I’m just keeping the whale wet” (when using water for pain relief). Oh, and there’s no place for the particularly inappropriate, and creepy, phrase … “can you add another stitch while you’re down there!”. Gross.

8. “C’mon it can’t be that bad!”

Not helpful … it IS pretty bad and doubting it – while she’s going through it – could see you banished from the birthing suite. It is not a good idea to diminish her experience – during or after. Put these phrases on your banned list: “C’mon you’ve done this before it should be easy”, “you didn’t scream as much as last time so it can’t be too painful”, “see it wasn’t that hard was it?” and “well that was easy. It was just like blowing the trumpet.”

9. “How much will the epidural cost?”

Now is not really the time for discussing the nitty-gritty of the hospital/birthing experience. Nor is it very appropriate to ask the midwife for a tutorial on how to read the equipment use your new-found expertise to give your partner blow-by-blow updates. Oh, and if she hops into the shower again it’s because it helps with pain relief. She will probably not appreciate you saying: “Are you serious? Don’t you know there are water restrictions?”.

10. “I’m going to get a magazine because this is going to take ages.”

Don’t forget you’re there as her support person. Now is not the time to be looking after your needs at the expense of hers. If she doesn’t mind you reading, playing Words With Friends or watching TV then fine, go ahead. But if she’s in transition you should probably be holding her hand or offering her sips of water rather than napping or slipping out for a smoke.

11. “See … Now you know how I felt when I had my ACL repair”

Probably not a great idea to compare her pain to your own while she’s in the throes of labour. “I know how you’re feeling” is also not going to go well. And don’t even think of uttering this: “it is harder to watch someone in pain than to go through the pain yourself!”

So now that you know what NOT to say to a woman in labour, don’t stress, we are not going to leave you hanging.

Here are some things you SHOULD say:

“You’re doing great”

“I love you”

“I’m here”

“Do you need some water”

“Awesome work”

“You’re amazing”

And afterwards, don’t forget to give her a big hug and say “thank-you”!

Image credit: miklav/123RF Stock Photo

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2 comments so far -

  1. I asked my partner to rub my back while in strong labour. After about 2 minutes of rubbing he sighed and said “My arm is really hurting.”
    Also, while attached to a contraction monitor so the midwife could check progress, he studied the trace carefully and, noting that contractions were peaking at 50, chirpily asked “When will they reach 100?”

  2. 10 minutes before my son popped out I begged my partner for pain relief having only just gotten to the hospital after hours of contractions. He tells me ” I don’t think you need pain relief yet, it’s probably to early for that”. The midwife handed me the gas and after my first suction on the gas my waters broke and my son crowned! 1 hour before delivery I broke down on my bedroom floor after a shower, my partner came in and asked “why are you crying?”.

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