A study found that using expletives was actually emotional language, and can make you feel better in certain situations.

The idea for the investigation came about after Dr. Richard Stephens, from Keele University, heard his wife swearing during labor, and asked the hospital’s midwives whether this kind of reaction was normal.

They told him that it was, as pain and cursing go hand in hand, so Stephens decided to pick this idea up as a research project into whether bad language can actually provide pain relief.

“I’ve been curious about swearing since childhood,” he explains, “because there’s a sort of fascination around hearing adults curse and use a language that you can’t. That interest stays with people.”

“I thought there was a good chance that swearing would help people cope with pain, because there has to be a reason people do it,” Stephens continues.

During the initial research, one hypothesis to emerge was that using obscene language was a form of catastrophizing: a cognitive distortion whereby the threat of a painful event is maximized in the mind of the sufferer.

“This was the best scientific line we found,” he says. “But as we looked into swearing further, it became apparent that it’s actually emotional language, and can make you feel better in certain situations. If you’re waiting for an ambulance and have no drugs, cursing can actually reduce the feeling of pain.”

The research process involved asking participants to play video games at different levels of the emotional spectrum, and then testing their relationship with aggression and swearing after this.

After playing a golf game, candidates scored lower on the swearing fluency test, only being able to recall seven expletives. But after playing a shoot-’em-up game, participants were found to have higher levels of aggression and the ability to reel off eight curses.

This finding was key in proving that swearing is in fact emotional language, and can serve an important purpose in both conveying certain emotions and acting as a coping mechanism for discomfort.

So there you have it. Don’t hold back during labour ladies. It may actually help ease some of the discomfort!

Do you curse during labour?

Share your comments below.

Image: Getty Images

  • lol! i let out a few cuss words but the nurses don’t even bat an eyelid because they are sooo used to it! …….whatever helps you get through the experience


  • The Myth Busters did an episode on swearing during pain. very interesting!


  • Women should be allowed to express themselves however they wish in labour.


  • It’s better than hitting anyone that’s for sure. At least swearing only hurts the ears during labour.


  • The most well educated and the not so well educated can let out a few expletives when in pain – as midwives we have heard it all!!! Get rid of the pain and give them a live baby and they are totally different people!!!!! We could write a book on some of the antics in labour!!!


  • Way tooo busy focusing on my breathing to swear.

    • Absolutely! I agree with you 100 % – the focus was on breathing and other techniques.


  • There are times in your life you do swear!


  • No – I did not swear and used other mindfulness techniques which were effective.


  • Swearing has been “in” lately, also on social media. But what is swearing ? Personally I’ve nothing against strong language, but I don’t like cursing.
    Giving expression to to emotions is relieving, that’s for sure.


  • I wanted to swear at the midwife who kept telling me to be quiet when in labour with my first born. You try squeezing a water melon out of your donut hole and tell me how quiet you are!


  • Now I know why I swear when hurt myself or frighten myself by doing something silly. Sometimes it sees to be a “shock” reaction.


  • I have never been able to swear/curse when in pain, much to the amazement at times of other people. But I can swear when I am annoyed, so what does that do to this study?


  • I didn’t curse during labour because of the people present in the room.


  • Didn’t swear during labour but I sure do now!!


  • I don’t remember too much about labour, the memory does fade a little, but I am sure I used an expletive or two. And God help anyone who had any issue with my behaviour at the time!!


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