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  • Writer's pictureMa Doula

Vocalising in labour

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Pain is often a strong concern for pregnant women planning for a vaginal birth (Slade et al., 2019). Across time and cultures, humans have intuitively used their voice as way to express themselves, as well as to enhance their ability to cope with pain. Indeed, research suggests that using one’s voice may improve pain tolerance (Swee & Schirmer, 2015). Despite this knowledge, studies exploring the use of voice and vocalisation as an effective way to cope with labour and birth pain are scarce. Furthermore, women in the birth space are not often encouraged to use their voice and report feeling judged and sometimes ashamed of the noises they make, unconsciously thinking that labour and childbirth have to be endured silently and stoically (Danford et al., 2022).


Your voice is a fantastic and powerful resource to add to your labour and birth toolkit. Evidence suggests that a woman who is comfortable using her voice during labour and birth may have increased feelings of control, power, and pain tolerance. A theory behind the use of voice acting as a “pain blocker” suggests that vocalising competes with the somatosensory and pain pathways to the brain (Danford, 2022). In other words, during a painful contraction, you have the ability to focus on your voice and redirect your brain’s attention to the sound, and away from the pain.


There are many ways to utilise your voice during labour and birth. Here are some:

  • Make a “aaah” or “ooooh” sound during your contractions, especially during the outward breath.

  • Be as loud as your need to be without inhibition.

  • Tone, or “voice the exhalation of breath on a single pitch, using a vowel sound or a hum”. Toning during labour and birth has been associated with decreased anxiety, increased relaxation and empowerment, and pleasant body vibrations (Pierce, 1998).

  • Roar.

  • Moan.

  • Read out loud/shout a text or a poem that you know by heart.

  • Sing a song.

  • Get your partner involved and make rhythmic sounds with you.

  • Combine the sounds and vocalisation with rhythmic movement and controlled breathing.

  • When you make a sound or a noise, try to combine it with a powerful thought or image in your mind, and do it in rhythm (e.g: “I can do it, I can do it, I can do it…”).

  • Again, as mentioned in a previous post, follow your intuition or “Let your monkey do it”. If you need to sing, sing. If you feel the urge to moan or shout, just do what your body instructs.


References:


Danford, K., Roosevelt, L., Vroom, A., Harris, L., & Zielinski, R. (2022). Impolite Birth: Theatre Voice Training and the Experience of Childbirth. Voice and Speech Review, 1-15. Available at: https://www-tandfonline-com.elibrary.jcu.edu.au/doi/full/10.1080/23268263.2022.2137970


Flashenberg, D. (2010). Let your monkey do it--a doula's take on homebirth. Midwifery today with international midwife, (93), 11-11. Available at: https://www.proquest.com/docview/733893937?parentSessionId=SVYQMs9udaBmbDJYHVHOTzSuoZ7uEriH%2FylYxNtrezk%3D&pq-origsite=primo&accountid=16285


Pierce, B. (1998). The practice of toning in pregnancy and labour: participant experiences. Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery, 4(2), 41-46. Available at: https://www-sciencedirect-com.elibrary.jcu.edu.au/science/article/pii/S1353611798800243?via%3Dihub


Slade, P., Balling, K., Sheen, K., & Houghton, G. (2019). Establishing a valid construct of fear of childbirth: findings from in-depth interviews with women and midwives. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 19(1), 1-12. Available at: https://www.proquest.com/docview/2193868371?parentSessionId=vJ%2FzGpHYp3%2FhN%2FDkOOWxodY7df3zwu%2FqCDTLRhtbZQc%3D&pq-origsite=primo&accountid=16285


Swee, G., & Schirmer, A. (2015). On the importance of being vocal: Saying “ow” improves pain tolerance. The Journal of Pain, 16(4), 326-334. Available at: https://linkinghub-elsevier-com.elibrary.jcu.edu.au/retrieve/pii/S1526590015000322

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