Ten Things Women Say in Labor (that are totally normal!)


Brittany-19Written by Aly Folin, CPM, LM, North Star Midwifery & Erin Stertz-Follett, CD(DONA), Flutterby Birth Services

After attending many births, it is safe to say that we as midwives and doulas have heard just about everything you can imagine come out of the mouths of the beautiful, strong laboring women before us. These are instinctual, common things to say in the midst of this transformative moment in your life. Sure, we might occasionally think, “Wow, I’ve never heard that before!” But, generally speaking, here are the words and phrases that we as birth attendants most often hear, along with tips for what these may mean and what partners can do in response!

1) “I can’t do this anymore!”/”When is this going to be over?”
What this might mean: There are really two distinct transitions in labor – The transition from “early” to “active” labor; and “Transition,” which is the when the cervix is finishing its opening. Labor can be described as a “staircase,” with each step up becoming more intense. It can take a laboring woman by surprise and may take some adjusting, mentally and physically.

What you can do: Help her stay calm, focused, and breathing through the contractions. Often this feeling passes quickly as she adjusts to the new level of intensity. Remind her that she can do anything for one minute at a time, and that she will receive breaks in between each contraction.

2) “I CAN do it.”
What this might mean: In short, it means that she believes in herself, has educated herself on birth, and has built a wonderful support team! We see women all the time that are surrounded with loving support and skilled, caregiving providers who are confident and working with their labors.

What you can do: Keep giving your partner your attention and reminder that yes, she can do it, that she IS doing it. If she strays from this path, have her repeat with you, “I CAN do it.” Tell her you are amazed by her, that she is strong. Keep affirming her work in bringing this baby forth.

3) “Don’t touch me!”
What this might mean: Labor is full of big, new sensations that can require all of a laboring woman’s focus. As labor moves along, she goes more inward. If touched at the wrong moment, it can distract her from her work. She may love that foot massage one moment and want all hands off at the next.

What you can do: Don’t take it personally! It is all she can manage right now, and this too will pass. Help her get through by staying close and helping her to remember to breathe and release tension with only your words. A little goes a long way. Don’t forget to remind her that she is doing great!

Smiling Brittany Tub
4) “I am hot… I am cold.”
What this might mean: There are huge hormonal fluctuations in labor that often lead to women feeling overheated or very cold. Because of this, you may first spend all your time warming a mom up, and then during the next contraction, she throws off all the blankets and is roasting!

What you can do: Don’t worry; it is normal! It does not mean that she is running a fever (but feel free to ask your provider if you are concerned). Just go with whatever she needs in the moment. Heated rice sock? Check! Icy-cold washcloths? No problem, babe! Need the heat turned up when it’s already 80 degrees outside? Ok!

5) “I don’t know what I want to do.”
What this might mean: Sometimes as women are getting closer to that final transition, they get more agitated and indecisive. No position or comfort measure is helping any more, or they are just too inwardly focused to make up their minds (understandably so!).

What you can do: Again, remind her to breathe and help her stay calm during the contractions. Ask your doula or midwife to suggest some position changes that help moms when they are in this place in labor. If she wants to do something, but is having a hard time making a choice, take the lead and ask her to try a new position or technique for at least three contractions.

6) “It feels like I have to poop.”
What this might mean: Poop? Yes, poop. As midwives and doulas, we get very excited (quietly) when we hear this! It often means the mom is feeling the baby’s head descend and put pressure against the nerve between her vaginal canal and her butt, making her feel like she has to poop. This usually means things are getting closer and she may be pushing soon!

What you can do: Say, “YAY!” What?! No, really. Please don’t say, “GROSS!” Since you now know that this sensation is good and it means baby is closer to arriving, celebrate with her! Midwives and nurses/birth assistants are very quick to clean up anything that does come out. Be sure mom doesn’t feel self-conscious and remind her that she is close to meeting her baby!

7) “Baby’s coming!”
What this might mean: Typically is means that baby is about to be born! Occasionally, women use this saying in general during their labor to express their overall excitement and anticipation of baby’s arrival.

What you can do: If you are unsure if she means this literally, ask her to clarify. If so, get your midwife or the nurse – baby is coming and you should get ready to help catch!

8) [Insert favorite curse word(s) here]
What this might mean: In actuality, it is surprising how little women swear in labor. The way the media depicts it, you would think that women are cursing up a storm and telling their partners all kinds of terrible things. But in reality, it is usually a moment here or there where some choice words or phrases will come out.

What you can do: Nod your head “yes.” Give her an “Mmmm hmmm.” Show her that you understand that she is feeling an intensity like she never has felt before. Maybe curse words are a part of her everyday language, and you won’t even notice! Doulas and midwives love when moms curse, as again, it typically means that things are moving along.

9) “This is fun!” (What?! Yes, really… Women say this).
What this might mean: Ok, we’ll admit. This isn’t the most-heard phrase in labor. But it has been said; most often by moms who are “high” on the hormonal cocktail of birth. They have drunk the Kool-Aid. They are all in. I (Erin) hear women say this who are well supported and who value humor and laughter in their birthing time. Moms who use hypnosis for childbirth techniques are the most common purveyors of this phrase.

What you can do: Enjoy it! Your partner is a Certified Rock Star!

Brittany-2210) Nothing at all.
What this might mean: Women deep into active labor will become very internally focused. Sometimes the way that helps them get through their contractions is to moan or stay quiet. Every woman is different and will cope differently.

What you can do: Don’t worry if she isn’t talking to you – it just means she is working really hard to stay focused. Stay present physically, she will reengage when she can.

Any and all of the above are so, so normal for women to say in the heat of labor! The main thing you can do as a support person is to respond to her needs the best you can in the moment and stay present as she works hard. Don’t take anything she might say personally. Always tell her she is doing great and how amazing she is! If this feels overwhelming to do on your own, hire a doula! She will help you know what to say in the moment and help you support your partner through this wonderful journey.

Happy Birthing!
Aly & Erin

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Photo Credit: Megan Crown Photography


7 Steps to Getting the Birth You Want

While it is true that I am a midwife that loves out-of-hospital birth, and loves getting to see how amazing women in labor can be on a daily basis, I understand that it may not be the right choice for everyone. I see beautiful births happen everywhere: at home, at birth centers and in the hospital… even in operating rooms! I passionately believe that every woman, no matter where they choose to give birth, should be treated with respect and honor during one of life’s most transformative moments.

What I want most for you is to know what your choices are, and to understand the potential impact those choices have on your birth experience. There is nothing I dislike more than hearing someone say they had a terrible birth experience and they wish they had found me before they had their baby! Informed consent, evidence-based information, and shared decision-making are crucial for a confident birth.

So what IS most important to you about your birth? Jot down some thoughts about the kind of birth you envision for yourself.

Ok, now that you have some ideas of what is important to you, let’s get down to business:Brittany-71

Step 1: Choose your place of birth to optimize your chances of having the kind of birth you want

  • Hospital: 98-99% of births in this country take place in the hospital. That being said, there can be huge differences in outcomes at different hospitals in the same area. We see this here in the Twin Cities, where some hospitals have very high cesarean rates, while another hospital across town has a very low rate. Hospitals are offering more and more choices to birthing families, but make sure you get the real scoop on what is marketing and what is real choice. There is a lot of window dressing these days!
  • Freestanding Birth Centers: Freestanding birth centers are one of the newest options in birth location, and they can be a great choice if you have a low-risk pregnancy. They have a home-like environment where you can labor and birth, but go home once you and baby are both able to (typically 4-6 hours after birth).
  • Home Birth: Home birth can be a hotly contested issue. The truth is that for a low-risk, healthy mother and baby, home birth can be just as safe as a hospital birth with a trained and skilled provider. The best part of home birth is getting to snuggle in your own bed with your baby! The benefits of home birth are many – check out our website to read about the benefits and safety of home birth.

Step 2: Choose your provider carefully

When choosing what kind of birth you want to have, it helps to have a provider that is an expert in that type of birth. If you want a natural birth, maybe hiring a surgeon (i.e. an OB/GYN) isn’t the best choice. If you want an epidural at the earliest possible time, choosing a homebirth midwife probably doesn’t line up. Here are some simple facts about different types of providers:

  • Midwives are the experts in physiologic birth. If you want a natural birth, a midwife is the best type of provider. If you have a higher risk pregnancy but still want a natural birth, you may want to check out midwives in the hospital, as many hospital midwifery practices can provide you with the care you need but still help you get the birth you want!
  • Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) are the experts in out-of-hospital birth (free-standing birth centers and home births). They have specific training to care for both mother and baby during home or birth center births. They primarily care for low-risk, healthy pregnancies, but if you have a health situation but you want an out-of-hospital birth, don’t be afraid to ask! Midwives can sometimes manage situations in collaboration with a physician.nsm-10
  • Family Practice Docs are a great option for hospital births! Many of them attend their own patients and tend to be more laid back in their approach. If needed, they will consult with an OB/GYN for high-risk mothers or those requiring surgical intervention in labor.
  • OB/GYNs are trained primarily in surgery. Normal, natural birth is not part of their training. There are OBs who do specialize in normal births, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
  • With any provider choice, get on your local birth/parenting or Facebook groups and find out what people’s experiences have been with the providers you are looking at, then interview a few to find the right fit for you!

Step 3: Take a childbirth class that supports your planned type of birth

Wherever you are planning to birth, if you want true education about how birth works and getting the tools you need to birth with confidence, choose an independent childbirth educator! Hospital classes are designed to teach you how to give birth in that institution. Independent classes teach you how to advocate for yourself in any type of birth situation.

Step 4: Be the healthiest you can be throughout your pregnancy

  • Eat well – Eat primarily whole, unprocessed food as much as you can, limit sugar, and try to get your veggies in.
  • Walk daily – Even a 15-minute walk daily can help your body get aligned and increase your endurance for birth.
  • Listen to your body! (But not when it says to eat the pint of ice cream). If you need to rest, rest! If you need more food, eat more high-quality food!

Step 5: Hire a Doula and Build your Birth Team

Doulas are an amazing addition to any birth team. They help you advocate for yourself and can help your partner support you in the best way possible. They are knowledgeable, skilled “tour guides” for any type of birth. Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support.

Step 6: Consider bodywork

Bodywork, especially chiropractic care with a skilled provider for pregnancy, can help get your pelvis and your baby aligned for your optimal birth experience. Other types of bodywork that can also help you include prenatal massage, Mayan abdominal massage, myofascial work, and more!

Step 7: Prepare for potential variations in the plan, whatever that may be

Birth is unpredictable. We do our best to prepare by controlling the factors that we can, and handling unexpected situations as they arise. It is helpful to create a vision of your birth, but to also be open to potential variations that may occur. Think through what those variations might be, and decide what is most important to hold on to from your vision and what you can let go of.

A success story:

One of my very best friends found out she was pregnant with twins, and when we went out for coffee one day, the subject naturally turned to her plans for her birth. This is what she had to say about it:

“When I got pregnant with my twins, I was convinced that I would likely need a c-section. I thought it would make sense to go to the hospital closest to me for convenience. Aly encouraged me to think of birth in a more natural way. She told me to think more about the kind of birth I wanted and less about convenience. I took this advice to heart, and after touring several hospitals, I chose one farther away that was more supportive of natural birth than the one close to me. The advice Aly gave to me was crucial in me ultimately having the birth I wanted…Find a place and people that support your beliefs about birth!”

You have choices! Going in to your birth with a plan and support will help you make the best choices possible to help you have the birth you want! Happy Birthing!

If you are interested in learning more about our home and birth center midwifery practice or to help figure out which one is right for you, set up a free consult at https://northstarmidwifery.acuityscheduling.com/

Photo Credits: Megan Crown Photography

We have another midwife! Introducing Rebecca Polston, CPM

Heashots-5For a long time I have wanted to practice with another midwife. The demands of a midwifery practice and having a young family are intense and having another set of responsible shoulders to share the load has been appealing. Rebecca and I have known each other for a long time. I was the second midwife at her first birth and we are part of the same parenting community. We have also been in the birth community together since 2007. Last fall Rebecca came to me as she was completing her credentialing process. My senior student was going to be out of the country and the timing was perfect. Rebecca and I clicked immediately and I knew she was the one for North Star Midwifery. So far we have been having a blast learning from each other and helping families.

Having two midwives at North Star Midwifery provides multiple benefits to the families we serve:

  • Continuity of care: if there are two moms in labor at once (a rare event), the families each get a midwife who they know well to help them and then each of us would call another midwife to come and help us.
  • Multiple perspectives: at each encounter with a family there are always 2 perspectives. This serves to help families feel more supported and helps the midwives to evaluate each issue from different viewpoints to improve safety and to increase the variety of options a family has.
  • Well rested midwives: Having two skilled midwives allows us to spell each other and ensures that there is at least one fresh midwife available most of the time.
  • More love: with twice as many midwives each family can get twice as much love. Love is the heart of midwifery care, you know!
  • Happy, balanced midwives: Rebecca and I have made a commitment to self-care and work/life balance. We will strive to take days off call and vacations a couple times a year or when we need them so that we are nourished and fresh for when your family needs us most.

Rebecca attended the National Midwifery Institute and worked with several local midwives to get her clinical experience. She also apprenticed in a high volume birth center in Utah. Before and during her training she worked as a Doula at HCMC for several years and worked as a breastfeeding Peer Counselor for WIC. As a student midwife she began her training in 2007. Rebecca’s training was steeped in the values of traditional midwifery and on a cellular level she believes in birth and women’s ability to bring their babies into the world. In February, Rebecca took and passed the NARM exam to become the first African American CPM in the state of MN.

Rebecca is the mother to 3 children. Her first was a planned homebirth that ended in a transport and a c-section. She then went on to have her next two VBACs at home. She is passionate about supporting women who have had a prior c-section and helping them understand all their options.

Rebecca and I share a passion for social justice in birth and in decreasing racial disparities in infant mortality and maternal outcomes. We have several projects up our sleeves that we hope to be able to share with you soon!

If you have any questions about Rebecca or how our practice works with two midwives, please feel free to get in touch. We are thrilled to have her and we know you will be too.

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Rebecca and her two HBAC babies