Helpful things to say to a birthing woman

I hesitate to make suggestions of what to say to a birthing woman because silence is so important and I wouldn’t want an attendant to be saying these things and disturbing the woman’s concentration.  Birth is an inward journey.  It is a deep reckoning with one’s own silly mind.  The woman has an opportunity to recognize that she is something much greater than her thoughts and the survival ego if she is left to sort through her own inner journey. 

One of my clients shared something funny after her birth about her inner struggle.  She had reached that point where she didn’t think she could go on and she said out loud “I JUST CAN’T DO IT ANYMORE!”  No one commented or argued, we just waited to see what would happen and, of course, a little baby came out of her body shortly after that.

What she told me later is that when she made that remark, immediately, the “voice” inside of her said “Leslie, you doorknob, you HAVE to do it!”  How wonderful that she was able to be her own best life coach and how funny that you would call yourself a doorknob.  My own inner voice usually refers to me as an a–hole!  🙂

Having said all that, these are some phrases that can lift the spirits of a woman in the birth process:

“It’s safe to let go”

“You only have to do this one”


“Breathe right down into it, it’s safe to go there”


“Breathe oxygen down to your thighs, that’s it. . . breathe in oxygen and breathe out with loose lips.”


“What you’re doing is ancient. . . your mother, your grandmother and your great grandmothers all the way back have done this. They’re all proud of you tonight.”


“If you’re doing this well now, I know you’ll make it through. Each sensation brings you closer to holding your baby in your arms”.


“I’m so proud of you. You’re doing beautifully”.


“Let’s begin this birth anew. Just let your breath wash away the past 5 hours and let’s begin now at the beginning.”


“Breathe some good oxygen breaths for your baby.”


“There’s lots of room for the baby to come through”.


“You’re stretching beautifully. . there’s more space than you know”


“Just let the baby get itself born, you get out of the way”


Birthing woman

6 thoughts on “Helpful things to say to a birthing woman

  1. I have to tell a funny story to go along with your note here Gloria! I had a first-time mom come to see me in transition, she actually had the presence of mind to grab from the trunk of her car every little cozy throw pillow (there must have been at least 5!) she had brought from home to bring into the birth center for her labor! when she got down to business in the birth suite, she was crawling around in bed on her hands and knees, working really hard and she began reassuring herself: “I’m almost there, I can do it,” and then she squeaked out a request to her attendants in the room, very sweetly begging, almost pitifully, “say these things to me!” Oh how cute. Her baby was soon born! Yes, she could!! and she even knew what she wanted to here. and she even asked for it!

  2. I can think of loving, encouraging words spoken to me and discouraging words too in my life. Words can be so important and you might not ever know how your words have really supported a client and their perinatal experience. And yes… silence is golden.

  3. All good stuff. I like to remain as quiet as possible, if anything as a signal to other people at the birth to revere her inward journey. But there are good times to say things – especially if she keeps looking outside of herself and is floundering.

    I was at a beautiful, first, fast hospital birth last month. This mother seemed to need so much reassurance because her labor was overwhelming. All my little phrases I keep in my pocket weren’t doing it for her. But when we finally got to the room, her midwife simply told her that she was safe and that her baby was safe. I know women labor best when/where they feel safest. But it never occurred to me to just TELL her she’s safe. It completely changed her labor for her and she trusted the ferocity of her labor so much more after that.

  4. Hi Gloria,

    I love this article! I am a student midwife and I am so mindful of language in birth. I particularly love this one “Just let the baby get itself born, you get out of the way”.


  5. The thing in my head when I thought I couldn’t do it anymore was “Just do it & get it over with! The faster u push her out the faster this will all be over!”

  6. These are great words to use, I’ve got to write them down!

    I know silence is important during birth, but some silences are not good. I was struck by this possibility while watching singer Alanis Morisette’s interview in the documentary The Business of Being Born. She had a home birth as a first time mom, and I’m sure she had a great birth team, but she relates very clearly that what they thought she was experiencing and what she was REALLY experiencing were totally different. They tried to respect her by remaining quiet and unobtrusive as they perceived her to be in “a deep meditation, a deep prayer” when in fact she was on the ground, unable to get up or speak, in a great amount of pain and fear. When she finally started making pushing noises the team “activated” as she puts it, and she expresses her relief that they were responding to her with some kind of action. They also let her go outside during transition, I guess because they assumed she knew what she needed, when the reality was that she had no idea what she needed and it might have been better in hindsight for them to have said clearly to her, you are about to have your baby, let him come down and out, you’re going to meet him in just a few minutes, that’s why everything feels so intense. Or something along those lines.

    So after watching and listening to this I am very aware of the input of those in the room. I was always pro-active in trying to anticipate needs such as socks for cold feet, a cool cloth for a hot face and neck, pillows for a woman who seems rooted to the floor on her knees, maybe an ottoman or birth ball for her to lean her upper body on to rest in between contractions, but after watching that interview I try to be a little more persistent. I make sure there is always someone (me or her mom or her husband or whoever) applying some kind of pain relief or comfort measure such as sacral counter-pressure or the hip squeeze, a heat pack on the low back and abdomen, or the “light touch massage” taught in Hypnobirthing, which is basically just a light stroking touch on the back and arms to stimulate goosebumps, a nice distraction for the nervous system. In addition to that, I make sure she understands before labour and during labour that if something we are doing is annoying or not helping, all she has to do is say “uh-uh” as in no stop it, and we will get it. I would rather have a woman say NO, or SHHH to me in labour, than assume she is doing fine when she is actually feeling terrified or alone or in pain.

    Another very important thing I’ve noticed is that women genuinely don’t know how they will feel or what they will need during labour. A woman having a summer birth, who hates heat and has been unbearably hot for the last 2 months may decline to try the heat pack on the lower back, but when I persist and convince her to let me try it, every single woman so far has found a huge amount of relief and relaxation, just from the simple application of a hot bag of beans to the back or tummy, or both. And then heaven help me if I don’t go heat it up fast enough!

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