The Importance of Words

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Way back when I was still working in labor room, I would often get handed birth plans with requests stated in the negative “no Pitocin, no breaking of the membranes, no pain medication” and so forth. Very often, despite our best attempts to honor these requests, they would end up getting every intervention they did not want and nobody was happy. This is because “energy goes where thought flows.”

Changing the words makes a big difference to how your mind perceives your intentions. Your mind does not understand “no”. Your mind is focused on Pitocin, breaking of the membranes and pain medication – somehow it misses the “no”. So your focus and energy is conflicted between controlling anticipated actions by others, rather than taking steps to avoid Pitocin, breaking of the membranes and pain medication. 

You need to shift your focus and energy to understanding why those interventions may be necessary so that you can prepare and take steps to avoid them. You need to take responsibility for your part in labor. Remember that all of these requests refer to actions that are done to you. Expecting your care giver to respect your wishes without taking into account your part in preventing these interventions is handing over control and fuels blame.

Let go of the things you cannot control

You cannot control or determine when your water breaks. You cannot control or determine when you labor will start. You cannot control the intensity of labor sensations.

You can however control your mind: you can control how you prepare for and perceive the intensity of labor sensations. You can control your breath as you experience the sensations. You can be aware of the changes in your body towards the end of pregnancy, noticing subtle signals that labor is imminent and responding accordingly by either resting or getting active (whichever feels right for you) to let go and let labor begin. You can visualize your water bag staying intact until your body and baby are ready to release.

Shift your energy and focus to the things that you can control. Your body, your mind and your breath. Prepare yourself mentally and physically. Practice breathing. Daily.

Ask the right questions

Keep an open line of communication between yourself and your care provider throughout. Ask open ended questions like “how often do you used Pitocin to induce or augment labor?” rather than “do you use Pitocin?” to which we KNOW the answer will be yes. Engage in a conversation so that they understand that you are informed and prepared. Be an active participant in all decisions that are made regarding your pregnancy and birth. This way, there can be no blame and no regrets. If you do not understand anything, then ask.


If you do not trust your care provider to respect your wishes you will not be able to let go and allow labor to unfold naturally. If you do not trust that your body knows how to labor on its own then you will not be able to relax enough to allow it to. If you do not trust that your partner will be there to support you will hold on instead of surrendering to the power of birth. Trust is an important element in avoiding interventions. Think about who you trust and why. Think about who you don’t trust and why not.

Learn to control your thoughts. 

The mind is either your greatest enemy or your closest friend, but you have the power to choose. Just as you changed the words that you used, so you need to change your thoughts. Once you have a clear understanding of the need for interventions and your part in avoiding them, your thoughts should automatically shift. Don’t dwell on what you don’t want. If you are worried about something then ask questions, face the fear and move through it so that you can let it go.  Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want.

Change the Words – use daily affirmations.

Instead of “No Pitocin” say “my labor starts naturally when my body and baby are ready.

Instead of “no breaking of the membranes’ imagine your water breaking spontaneously at the right time for you and your baby.

Instead of ‘no pain medication” say “I have the resources deep within to manage the challenge of labor.”

Change your perception. 

If you accept that Pitocin can be a useful and even life-saving procedure and you trust that it will only be used in that way. If you accept that you might need it for reasons that are beyond your control and you understand enough about it to ask the right questions, then the benefit of Pitocin may outweigh the risks.

Recommended Reading

The Thinking Women’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer

Birthing from Within by Pam England & Rob Horowitz

Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond by Nancy Bardacke

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