What To Do When You Lose It During Labor

How can you handle contractions – and what do you do if you totally lose it during labor?

“Losing it” is something many women fear – it’s one of the reasons women choose to have pain relief that they may not necessarily want.

Maybe you had an experience where you decided you were going to have a natural birth, you wanted to go without medications, but you felt like you totally lost it during labor. You ended up asking for the medications, or you had a really rough experience.

Topics I Cover:

  • What to do if you’re worried about totally losing it during labor!
  • How common is it for women to feel overwhelmed in labor?
  • Essential steps to take BEFORE asking for medications
  • How one simple tweak can help you (and your baby) deal with contractions
  • How your partner can help you get back on track
  • When to use breathing (and when you shouldn’t)
  • How to use affirmations (so they really help)
  • plus many more tips!

Listen to this article:

Maybe you’re thinking “I have no idea how I would do that without medications this time around.” You’re not alone – most of us have been there!

That’s why I think knowing what to do when you lose it is encouraging. “I can’t handle this.” “This is too tough.” Are thoughts that lots of women have…

…and lots of women overcome that and gon to have a great natural birth.

Remember, it’s completely normal – it may be a signal that it’s time to change things – but it’s completely normal for this to be a challenge.

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

Think about this…

…we expect climbing a mountain to be challenging for the woman who does it. We expect winning in the boardroom to be a challenge for the women who does it. We expect winning a tennis championship to be a challenge for the woman who does that. We even expect musicians and actresses to work to get to the top!

You are just as incredible as those women, and you can birth your baby.

Here are some thoughts to help you:

#1 It’s Not Time to Give Up

Many, many women hit that wall where they don’t think they can go on, and like I’ve already said, many of them do go on to have an amazing, natural birth.

Getting to the point where you feel like you’ve lost it, or you can’t handle it, is not a sign that it’s time to give up.

It’s a sign that it’s time to make a change.

#2 Birth is Supposed to be Intense

I might not be popular for saying this, but birth is supposed to be intense.

Maybe you don’t want to think about it being painful and that’s fine – I completely respect however you want to think about it. I do not generally think about pain when I’m preparing for one of my own babies. I think about the intensity of it, because it’s intense.

Many experiences in life are intense – think about the analogies I gave above… all of those are intense situations. When you’re in your birthing time, thinking about that marathon running, that mountain climber – she keeps going, even when it’s tough.

She goes through peaks and valleys in her training. We don’t belittle her when she faces challenges – we cheer her on. We don’t tell her she can’t do it, that she should just give up. We cheer her on!

Think about her – even if she loses it, she comes back to a place where she can get in the zone and get into the flow of the intensity and the energy. She probably has techniques she’s studied and practiced to help her get where she needs to go.

Birth is a lot like that – you are going through an experience that’s incredibly intense, and there’s a pinnacle at the end…

…one of the best rewards ever. You get to hold a new baby, plus, from a chemical and hormonal standpoint it’s wonderful because in an unhindered natural birth you get an incredible oxytocin high which is incredibly rewarding. And you get a cute, snuggly baby to hold 😉

#3 Breath is Powerful

There are four types of breathing – these are used every day in all kinds of situations, not just birth (I learned about these in The Pink Kit.

First, there’s breathing in through your nose and out through your nose. That’s our typical, natural type of breathing. We consider it to be a very relaxed type of breathing.

Second, there’s breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. You might breathe that way when you’re trying to catch your breath, or after you’ve exerted yourself with exercise or heavy lifting.

Next, there’s breathing in through your mouth and out of your mouth – that’s panting. You do that after you’ve had to sprint unexpectedly, or maybe after someone tickles you!

The final type of breath we don’t see too often – in through the mouth and out to the nose. This tends to happen because you’re surprised or shocked or you are a small child who’s getting ready to scream and you get cut off in the middle of it 😉

The last two types of breathing are not very sustainable overall – you can’t breathe like that for very long.

You actually aren’t likely to use the second type of breathing pattern very long, either. I think it’s technically “sustainable,” but once you’ve used it for a bit, you tend to go back to the very first, relaxed, breathing pattern.

It’s the “cleansing breath” and it’s a very powerful kind of breathing to use if you lose it during labor. It’s doubly powerful if you have a birthing partner (your husband and/or your mom or your sister or somebody who is going to be there with you) who can model it for you. I actually saw this at a recent birth I assisted with: the mom was having trouble because things were getting really intense fast. Her baby was so close – it was within 10 minutes of her baby being born so she was just at the peak things where it was really happening quickly.

She asked she asked her husband “Please breathe for me” and he really had no idea what she wanted, so I actually squatted down beside him and helped him, I showed him how to breathe so that he could breathe for her. It’s really helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed, especially if you’re at the peak of a rush that feels really intense, to have somebody else do that breathing. Then you just model what they’re doing.

They can watch you and see that it’s getting intense – they can watch you and read you. They breathe a little faster at first, to match close to you, then slow down and you just follow their breathing.

Then you can let that one go.

It’s not going to come back again.

You can relax in that space, that resting place (and maybe it’s time for a position change at this point, too…!)

And again, if you’re at the very end like the mom I just shared with you – that place where things are feeling on top of each other, remember, you still have that moment where you can breathe.

#4 Affirmations

I want to share something else I saw with this mom’s birth – and something I’ve seen help many students in my MamaBaby Birthing online classes.

This mom had done something I thought was really cool: she had put affirmations up on the wall all around, and these were her personal affirmations. I imagine she had been saying to herself throughout her entire pregnancy!

The senior midwife there came in and she actually started to speak some of those affirmations out loud to this mom and I took my cue from her and I spoke some of those affirmations out loud even when the senior midwife got busy watching for the baby.

It was incredible – you could see the transformation in this mom. She had her husband helping her with the breathing, and then she heard these affirmations. She got a little bit of a break as her rushes turned into pushing contractions (which tend to space out a bit). She actually started to repeat the affirmations after we said them. It was incredible to see her go from feeling overwhelmed and out-of-control by just saying these affirmations she’d written for herself.

I’ve also had a doula share with me that she had a mom who was feeling really overwhelmed and the doula showed her an ultrasound/sonogram picture of her baby. The mom went from saying she couldn’t do it, to working hard with her baby. Click here to listen to that interview with Nikki!

Remember, you are not doing this alone – you are working with your baby.

I tell my students that you’re working with your baby…

…you and your baby are an amazing birth team!

Now you can have an amazing birth partner – my husband is been a wonderful birth partner for me!

But you and your baby are actively working this together. Remember that 😉


  • Breathing is a great emergency measure
  • Then take a minute to realize this OK, this is normal, and this is your baby you are working with

As you start calming down, “My baby and I are working together” is a really empowering. It brings a lot of women back to the place where they realize “This torrential amount of energy that’s coming through me, all of the sensations, they are for a reason. That little person in there is working with me too.”

#5 Position Changes

Sometimes if you’re really feeling like things are super-intense and really painful in a particular way, such as back labor, changing positions can make a big difference. Remember the doula and her client I mentioned above? After seeing the sonogram picture and taking a minute to calm down, Nikki helped the mom change positions and the mama found things much easier to handle.

This is especially true if you’ve been in one position for a long time – regardless of where you are: in the birth tub, in the bed,or whatever. If you haven’t gotten up for a while a position change can really help.

Going to the bathroom can sometimes help because having a full bladder can make things feel really intense! It can also slow labor down because your uterus can’t work as well with a full bladder in the way.

Remember, if you feel like things are on top of each other it’s often the sign that you’re getting pretty close to the end. You may not want to spend a lot of time trying to “get comfortable” – just be open to your baby coming.

One of the things that I personally thought in my last few babies births is I want this to get happy, which is something that comes from Ina May Gaskin and her book, Spiritual Midwifery. I think it’s actually in a mom’s story in the book – she said

I want it to get heavy

She means…

I want this to get more intense. I want this baby to come. I want to open for this baby.

That’s just so powerful.

I wrote an email a few weeks ago and actually ended up posting it on the blog because it was so popular (Click here to read Motherhood and Surrender)…

…a lot of power comes through this level of surrender.

I’m not talking about writhing in pain – rather, I mean surrendering to the fact that this is an enormous amount of energy and this is an enormous amount of power.

This is an incredible amount of energy and power… I need to not resist it, but I need to figure out how to work with it.

That kinda goes back to working with your baby. Just think about that that sense of surrender and the beauty that comes in that…

…and that you can work with that energy.

It might look like a position shift. It might mean getting up spiraling your hips, something a lot of women find very instinctive during birthing.

Standing and spiraling, sitting on a birth ball and spiraling your hips, getting on hands and knees and rocking…

…those can all be things that women find helpful work with that sheer energy of birthing.

#6 Keeping it Low and Loose

Keep your jaw relaxed. Go for low moaning, not high-pitched screaming, but that low moaning can really help.

Again, I think it helps move that energy through your body. Ina May talks about in her book – a loose jaw helps create a loose bottom, which is what we want when we have a baby!

I hope all of those tips are helpful for you – and help you to see that even if things get tough, you have strategies you can use to help you. Many, many women have done this and you can too!

If you’d like a printable checklist with techniques that help you, check out my proven labor pain techniques printable:

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

When You Lose it During Labor

About the author 


Kristen is a pregnancy coach, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! I've spent nearly two decades helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Does complete support for a sacred birth and beautiful beginning for your baby resonate with you? Contact me today to chat about how powerful guidance and coaching can transform your pregnancy, birth, and mothering journey <3

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