See more articles by Liza Janda

1. “You’re doing so well.”

You can’t praise or encourage a pregnant woman in labor enough. A woman in labor is like a sponge. She will soak up negative and positive energy, words, actions. She will begin to doubt herself, especially during transition. As a matter of fact, during transition, 8-10cm dilated, self-doubt is a classic and super common reaction to what she is experiencing. She can feel overwhelmed and have a total loss of confidence even if she’s done great until transition. So pour on the praise and show her how amazing she is to do what she is doing – bringing her own baby into the world by the power of her body, her mind, her soul and spirit.

2.     “You’re amazing!”

Pour on the praise and keep it coming. Just like I said, above, remind her how incredible her body is. Remind her how powerful she is to not only grow this baby but to bring it earth-side. I don’t care how many times you see a birth. IT IS AMAZING!
Here are some synonyms for AMAZING. Use them all!: awesome, incredible, astounding, stunning, breathtaking, phenomenal, mind-blowing, unbelievable, miraculous.

3.     “Imagine what is happening inside your body. Visualize your cervix opening with each contraction.” 

Imagining the changes that are happening in her body. The cervix begins to efface or to shorten. Then the cervix begins to open or dilate. The baby moves down and the uterus helps to push the baby down toward the birth canal. The top of the uterus gets thicker and thicker with each contraction and your baby pushes his/her feet against the top of the uterus with each contraction. The baby is an active passenger during labor and helps him or herself to descend.  Watch this video to see an animated version of the process of labor and birth.

4.     “Think about the baby. Each contraction is like a hug of love from you for your baby.” 

Each contraction in labor and birth really is a surge of the love hormone known as oxytocin. This is the same hormone we all produce when we fall in love, when we have an orgasm, and breastfeed our babies. During labor your body produces many hormones to help you cope with labor. Some of those hormones help you relax, like endorphins. Your baby gets those same hormones through your bloodstream and the placenta. Other hormones your body produces in labor are stress hormones, or catecholamines. Your baby responds to your stress hormones by producing his own stress hormones. As a result these stress hormones and the contractions help to increase lung surfactants. These help your baby breathe once he is outside the womb. These lung surfactants actually help your baby’s lung to expand ad to clear amniotic fluid form their lungs. Labor Helps your baby to breathe!
Stress hormones cause more blood to pump to your baby’s heart and kidneys and brain. Labor helps your baby’s cardiovascular system and makes them more alert after birth. All that Oxytocin your body is producing is also known as “the love hormone”. Labor helps your baby to bond with you. Never ever gain will you and your baby have the same levels of oxytocin. Labor helps you fall in love with your baby. Labor boosts your baby’s immune system. White blood cells are increased as those adrenal hormones are secreted by your body. Labor is full of love and good health for your baby!

5.     “All this hard work is stimulating your baby’s breathing, and circulation, and preparing the baby for life outside your womb.” 

Studies show that hormones the laboring mother produces that help her deal with the pain of her contractions, cause her baby’s adrenals to produce high levels of catecholamines or stress hormones that help baby adapt to all the changes coming his way. If you can change the laboring mother’s perspective about what she is experiencing, she may have a different attitude about the hard work she is doing. She will recognize how important this hard work is to her baby’s health.
Sometimes a laboring mom needs reminding of how powerful she is and how significant this process is for her baby. She will be a determined, steadfast laboring Mama Bear!

6.     “Trust yourself. That incredible strength is YOU. You’re doing it! “

Turn her fear around and encourage the laboring mother to accept that great power is coming from her. A woman’s experience of, especially a natural birth, can trigger a spiritual awakening. She will be transformed by the experience of labor and becoming a mother. Labor and birth is a transcendent experience for many women. Saying this can encourage her to trust in her own wisdom and strength. She learns she is not powerless. She can be confident and strong and mighty impressive!

7.     “You’re doing everything right. We’re here for you.” 

Standing right next to her, supporting her both physically and emotionally will carry her a long way through all that hard work of labor. Your job is to provide hands-on massage, physical support. Using visualization and other relaxation techniques for labor. Things that will help and let her know you are there are music, aromatherapy oils, a focal point (maybe a photo of an ultrasound, or tiny baby shoes, or a beautiful scene of a serene place). Suggest different positions. Suggest using water – getting in the shower or the bath to ease pain and help her to relax during contractions. Create an environment that contributes to her sense of safety, comfort, and confidence. Tell her you’re here for her but also, SHOW HER!

8.     “We know how hard you’re working. I’m so proud of you.” 

Showing compassion and empathy can help. Just acknowledging that yes, it is hard work, but “You can do it and you are doing it.” Your baby is sensitive and responsive to maternal emotions, thoughts, stress and the surrounding home, work, and social environment, including the birth scenario. So creating an ambiance of support and encouragement can go a long way in building mother’s determination and courage. That faith and reassurance can not only console her but your baby will feel it too. When you appreciate her hard work and her dedication, she will have the same empathy and compassion for her new baby. She will be a confident mother able to bond with her new baby.

9.     “Breathe in and breathe out. That’s right deep slow breaths!” 

Deep slow abdominal breathing – in through the nose and out through the mouth – helps to stimulate the relaxation response in labor. Diaphragmatic breathing is the BEST thing a laboring woman can do for herself and her baby. Breathing slowly and deeply reduces anxiety, stress, and even improves her heart rate. It’s good for anyone at any time but in labor, it can’t be beat! “Everybody has the power to create a state of mental and physical calmness on demand. “Christopher Bergland

10.  “Let’s hear you make some noise. Keep it low and deep. Take a deep breath in through your nose and just moan all the breath out.” 

Moaning is an amazing tool. Encourage her to make as much low deep sound as she can with every single contraction. So many of my students say they thought before labor that they’d never make noise. But after labor, what they say is, “Once I started moaning, I actually felt less pain and things just really started moving down, down, down. Amazing!”

Take a deep breath in through the nose and moan out the low, deep sound until your lungs are empty and then do it again. The vibrations the laboring mother makes in her vocal cords, when she moans affects the pituitary gland, which then stimulates the relaxation response every pregnant woman needs to tap into in labor.

11.  “Take a deep breath and just LET GO with your exhale… One contraction at a time… Stay focused on this one contraction and see how relaxed you can get.” 

For everyone helping the laboring woman it’s helpful to stay focused on the moment. Don’t think about the contractions to come and the ones that have passed. The body knows just what to do and the laboring mother’s job is to let go and get out of the way. If you need to get her re-focused, try this technique:

  • Have her get up & go to the bathroom – the toilet is a surprisingly comfortable place to be in labor
  • When she returns from the bathroom have her try a different position.
  • Make her physically comfortable- pillows, blankets, position of bed, birth ball, shower, peanut ball
  • Run through a complete relaxation routine either verbally or physically like massage
  • Tell her<” We are going to use the 30 minute rule.” We are going to focus on one contraction at a time and talk about it again in 30 minutes.
  • Ask her to try just 3 more contractions. She may be able to re-focus if you concentrate on one at a time.
  • Remind her to trust her instincts not her fear.

“You had the power all along, my dear.” ~ Glinda the Good Witch, The Wizard of Oz

Remember that the woman in labor must have complete trust in her body’s ability to bring her baby into the world safely. She must find assurance and affirmation from those around her. Just like you will tell her, “You Can Do It!” and so can she with your help and faith in her.