The Power of Noise in Labor

I believe with all my heart that women’s birth noises are often the seat of their power. It’s like a primal birth song, meeting the pain with sound, singing their babies forth. I’ve had my eardrums roared out on occasions, but I love it. Every time. Never let anyone tell you not to make noise in labor. Roar your babies out, Mamas. Roar.” –Louisa Wales

When I shared the above quote on the CfM Facebook page, it had the honor of being the most “liked” quote I’ve ever posted. Women responded powerfully with their own stories—with experiences of how they “roared” and experiences of being silenced. (The classic, “Don’t scare the other patients!”)

I gave birth to my first in a birth center and while the staff there were wonderful and kind, I still felt noise-inhibited and was pretty quiet, except for humming to myself and talking somewhat during pushing (saying things like, “how come some people say pushing feels good?!”). My second son was born at home and I roared and I LOVED it. There is a lot of power in that and when I read stories where women say, “I didn’t make any noise” the whole time, or “I was so calm people thought I was sleeping,” I feel like I, personally, wouldn’t have wanted to miss out of the sense of personal power that came with using my voice. The raw intensity of just doing what felt right, with NO inhibitions about what other other people are thinking or feeling. I have written another post about the association between “coping well” and “silence” in some people’s minds. If a woman WANTS to be silent during labor and that feels powerful to her, then obviously, I think that is great, but often when I hear “quiet and calm” stories I feel a little sad because I suspect perhaps she was in an environment where she didn’t feel safe enough to use her voice.

I am talker in real life and it makes a lot more sense to me that I would be noisy in labor rather than silent. I talked to/coached myself through the whole thing. My third labor I also talked myself through the whole thing—out loud, repeating certain things over and over, etc. What I do NOT like during labor is having anyone else talk to me—that was my number one item on my birth plan with my second baby, “no extraneous talking or noise.” I can talk, but no one else!

10 thoughts on “The Power of Noise in Labor

  1. I loved roaring my baby out. It felt so powerful. I make sure to teach my moms and dads that noises are good.

  2. I’m a pretty silent birther–well, silent laborer. Once my body starts pushing, all sorts of sounds come out of my mouth. But during the whole laboring stage, I just don’t feel the need to vocalize. So sometimes those “silent birthers” just work that way naturally! (And I gave birth at home both times, totally uninhibited.)

    But yes, women need to be encouraged to make noise. Actually the first thing they need is to be familiar with the typical noises of an unmedicated labor. A lot of them are ones that are pretty foreign the first time you hear them.

    • Yes, definitely if women work that way naturally, silence is cool! I don’t often here “silent” birth stories that are woman-directed though šŸ˜¦

  3. I learnt about labor noises in our birthing class but never imagined what they sounded like until I went into labor. I had to be induced because I carried my baby for a little over 42 weeks (she just wanted to stay in my cozy womb)! Anyway, if you have never been induced, the contractions are way closer and stronger…sometimes a contraction kicks in when another is still running its course! I was so set on not having an epidural, that I completely immersed myself in my labor (also thanks to the incredible support of my doula and partner…lots of back massages and warm compresses), that I don’t remember most of my labor. When I watched the video later, I could not believe the sounds coming out of my voicebox. I sounded like a lion the whole time…the contractions were almost nonstop, so the sounds were continuous and increased in volume as the intensity of the contractions increased! No wonder when I asked my partner how he felt about the whole experienced, he said “it was like nothing I have ever seen or heard…you were like a beautiful lioness!”

  4. I LOVE this post!! My first birth was very noise-inhibited, my second was very quiet because of the “quiet = coping” thing, and with my third, I ROARED…and it was fabulous!!!

  5. I was told in labor with my second child to “quiet down” and that it wouldn’t help to make so much noise. Although I remember it vividly (b/c I had a very large urge to tell the nurse who told me this to “*%@$-off!” I resisted and just continued to make my noise. I am a loud person in all aspects of life and being loud in labor was completely natural to me. I wish I had said something witty to this nurse, I often think of how many other women she might have silenced, but I was in my own little world and at the time, ignoring her and being even louder seemed like the right thing to do! šŸ˜‰

  6. I bellowed in my first birth, and I roared in my second. I mean, head back, hair a danglin, mouth agape, roared. It felt wonderful. I’m an LCCE and I LOVE talking about vocalizing in labor with my students. And as a doula, one of my favorite things to do is vocalize with mom if she’s feeling self conscious about doing so. Let’s hear it for breaking labor silence!

  7. Pingback: What Does Coping Well Mean? | Talk Birth

  8. I generally laboured pretty quietly, not feeling the need to vocalise.
    Quite inwardly focused. I did have an interesting experience when bearing down with my first baby though. I produced an involuntary, deep, loud, guttural sound. To my ears, it sounded like someone in pain, which wasn’t the case at all! I felt the need to reassure those around me (especially my husband) that it didn’t hurt, it was just a noise I was making!

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