What is a discouraged mother?
A discouraged mother has lost her enthusiasm and desire to give birth naturally. She may feel depressed or defeated. A mother who is fatigued during labor may be more likely to become discouraged.
In labor, a mother may become discouraged if she feels unprepared for what she is experiencing or if labor is not what she expected. She may also be discouraged if she feels she is unable to make meaningful decisions about how to handle labor or if things are not happening the way she wanted.
Discouragement is not to be confused with the normal "giving in" that happens during transition. It is important for a labor coach to recognize the signs of transition to determine if the mother is moving to transition or feeling discouraged.
Why is discouragement a challenge?
When a mother becomes discouraged she has lost her confidence to continue the labor. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the confidence a woman has in her ability to give birth is related to the amount of pain she will feel during labor and her ability to cope with the stress. When the mother loses her confidence, she increases the amount of pain and discomfort she has in labor. If she is unable to regain her confidence, she may feel the need to use medications to manage the pain she feels.
Try changing the scenery, especially if she is experiencing a long early phase of labor. Boredom makes the time go even slower. Fresh air may help to clear a stuffy mood.
Be sure to give her plenty of positive feedback. Phrases such as "You are doing so well," can go a long way in preventing discouragement.
Try to refocus her thoughts by talking about the baby or a special memory. Use a visualization or put on some music to sing to.
Things to discuss with your caregiver:
The words that are used impact the way a woman feels about her ability to labor. Phrases such as "you look tired" and "do you want something for the pain" suggest to the mother that she is not laboring well. You may want to ensure your caregiver and all those who support you during labor use encouraging and positive words and phrases.
It may be a good idea to explore your caregiver's willingness to have you participate in the decision making during labor. There is no way to determine how a caregiver responds to women making their own choices unless you are actively making your own decisions during pregnancy and acting on them. If your find your caregiver is not the right fit for you, find someone who is.
Davenport-Slack, B. & Boylan, C. (1974). Psychological correlates of childbirth pain. Psychosomatic Medicine, 36, 215.
Lowe, N.K. (1993). Maternal confidence for labor: Development of the Childbirth Self-Efficacy Inventory. Research in Nursing and Health, 16(2), 141-149.
Lowe NK. Explaining the pain of active labor: the importance of maternal confidence. Res Nurs Health. 1989 Aug;12(4):237-45.
Green, J.M. Coupland, V.A. & Kitzinger, j.V. (1990). Expectations, experiences, and psychological outcomes of childbirth: A prospective study of 825 women. Birth, 17(1), 15-24.