During labor and birth, women make some pretty primal and as it turns out, clinically significant sounds (as Haley mentioned in her birth story). Curious about the significance of these vocalizations, I went to the literature to see what has been written on the topic. As it turns out, not that much (especially in recent years) – but there are a couple of good, older studies looking at themes in maternal sounds during labor.
In Obstetrics By Ear (1990), labor videos were analysed on factors such as “quality, pitch, feeling state, and accompanying verbalizations”. Certain recurring maternal sounds, should be taken as cues for different types of support. For example, childlike cries should prompt maternal support, grunting/working sounds, should prompt encouraging and coaching support.
Similarly, in Acoustical Analysis of Maternal Sounds (1993), certain pitches or qualities in a mother’s labor sounds consistently corresponded with “(a) beginning to manifest the effort to bear down, (b) experiencing pain, or (c) [being] frightened”.
Can you imagine if birth care providers were all trained how to listen and respond to these types of vocal cues?