Sensory overload in labour 

I have a virus. Not dangerous, but pretty miserable. My sinuses are gunked up, my throat hurts, I have a really unpleasant cough. My gum infection has returned, which is setting off bad tmj (jaw) pain, and my mouth has dried out badly enough that my tongue is cracked and hurting. My face is a big mass of unhappiness and eating is a challenge. 

So when I’m also having contractions in this long, long early labour (12 days now) I’m getting overwhelmed easily. There’s simply so much input I can’t process it all. If I add in bright light and more than one or two other people, noise or conversations, my brain overloads. The pain is exhausting but the input alone is simply too much. 

I don’t have a lot of sensory issues generally, some fairly minor ones around things like needing to be completely dry after showers, not being able to tolerate tags on clothes or tight sock seams that are uneven. I didn’t really consider labour from a sensory perspective. The discomfort is manageable at the moment; my face is the centre stage for pain currently. The sheer fatigue gets to me at times. The difficulty of rest periods being occupied by other forms of pain to manage, so they don’t feel like a good rest. Dialing down the input and finding ways to ground and focus is helping. 

So last night, Rose went out to a lovely little dinner and I stayed home, because as much as I wanted to be part of it, I felt terrible and the prospect of trying to manage uncomfortable chairs, lots of people, tastes, smells, sounds, conversations overlapping on top of facial pain and contractions was too much. A friend stayed with me and we played a board game. 

Rose and Star are off running errands and I’m alone, with the lights dim and about to watch a Wire in the Blood to give me something to focus on.  It’s slow and sad and I know it well, the music is full of grief and it draws me into a calmer place where my breathing steadies. 

Earlier today as I started to overload I simply went and sat by Rose and asked her to hold my hand, tears running down my face. Sometimes adding one more soothing bit of sensory input gives me what I need to ground. 

There’s no way I’m the only person dealing with this. I haven’t seen much out there about it. I hope my observations might be useful to some. If you want to explore more about grounding and sensory supports, try 

One thought on “Sensory overload in labour 

  1. Among awe for your stamina, there is also gratitude here for describing sensory overload – something I have always just dealt with on my own – recently better understood as part of (more or less mild) AS.
    Like Temple Grandin says there is a downside to everything being diagnosed – rather than just experience. But that is not your issue. Keep going being. You.


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