The lyric of "This Woman's Work" is about being forced to confront an unexpected and frightening crisis during the normal event of childbirth. Written for the movie She's Having a Baby, director John Hughes used the song during the film's dramatic climax, when Jake (Kevin Bacon) learns that the lives of his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) and their unborn child are in danger. As the song plays, we see a montage sequence of flashbacks showing the couple in happier times, intercut with shots of him waiting for news of Elizabeth and their baby's condition. Bush wrote the song specifically for the sequence, writing from a man's (Jake's) viewpoint and matching the words to the visuals which had already been filmed.
The version of the song that was featured on The Sensual World was re-edited from the original version featured on the film soundtrack. The version released as a single was a third, slightly different mix.
"This Woman's Work" is one of several songs that were completely re-recorded on her 2011 album Director's Cut. The new version features a sparse performance of Bush singing and playing piano.
According to the sheet music published in Musicnotes.com by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the song is set in the time signature of common time, with a slow tempo of 66 beats per minute. It is written in the key of A-flat major with Bush's vocal range spanning from A♭3 to E♭5.
The music video for "This Woman's Work", which was directed by Bush herself, starts with Bush, spotlighted in an otherwise black room, playing the introductory notes on a piano. In the next scene, a distraught man (played by Tim McInnerny) is pacing in the waiting room of a hospital. It is then revealed through flashbacks that his wife (played by Bush) has collapsed while they were having dinner. The story blurs into a continuous scene where he carries her to the car, a desperate race to the hospital, and his wife being wheeled away on a stretcher as he races in behind her. While waiting, the husband is wracked with fear and imagines his wife in happier times, kissing him in the rain, and even imagines the nurse coming to tell him she has died. The nurse then pulls him out of his reverie, as she reassuringly puts her hand on his shoulder and tells him about his wife's situation, the outcome of this is left ambiguous; yet the nurse is seen smiling as she speaks, implying a happy ending. The final scene of the video returns to Bush as she silently closes the piano keyboard.
A version of the B-side "Be Kind to My Mistakes" had previously been featured in the film Castaway in 1986. The other B-side, "I'm Still Waiting", features on the 12" and CD single versions only.
7" single (UK)
12" and CD single (UK)
"This Woman's Work" was released on 20 November 1989 and reached a peak position of #25 in the UK Singles Chart. Fifteen years after its original release, in 2005, the song peaked at #3 in the UK Official Download Chart, due to it being featured in the Tamzin Outhwaite drama Walk Away and I Stumble. Due to the song's inclusion in TV series Extras, the song entered the UK chart once again at #121 in the week ending 5 January 2008, rising to #76 the following week. After it was performed by a contestant on Britain's Got Talent in April 2012, it recharted at #63 in the UK chart.
The song was featured on the Felicity soundtrack, and has been used at key moments in episodes of Ghost Whisperer, Alias, Party of Five, Crossing Jordan, 7th Heaven, Without a Trace, Chasing Life, The Vampire Diaries, The Cleveland Show, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It was used to promote the season opener of the 2007-2008 season of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Since 2006 the song has featured on two long-running TV adverts for the British children's charity the NSPCC.
There are a lot of references to this song in the 1995 Italian film Cronaca di un amore violato.
The 2007 Special Christmas edition of the Ricky Gervais comedy series Extras, which aired 16 December in the US on HBO and 27 December on BBC One in the UK, featured two scenes using the song as a soundtrack. Due to the song's inclusion in Extras, the song entered the UK chart once again in January 2008. In June 2008, the song was played at the beginning and end of an Emmerdale episode featuring a custody battle between two sets of parents.
The song was sung by actress Kether Donohue in the first season finale of the American TV comedy You're the Worst.
In 1997, American R&B musician Maxwell covered the song for the release of his album MTV Unplugged. The artist later re-recorded the song in studio for his album Now (2001). This version of the song was released as the album's third single in 2001 and peaked in the US Billboard charts at #58 (Billboard Hot 100 in 2002) and #16 (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs). This version also appeared in the movie Love & Basketball.
The music video for Maxwell's cover of "This Woman's Work", which was directed by Sanji, begins with pictures of Maxwell and his lover in black-and-white photography. One picture reveals that his lover has died. In the next scene, Maxwell sees the ghost of his lover in the street and proceeding toward her, he falls through the street into a watery grave; seemingly drowning in his sorrow. Maxwell, then begins to swim across the street, pulling himself up by holding onto the sidewalk, he looks up to a cloud that reveals the face of his lover. The next scene shows Maxwell sitting in a diner, reminiscing about the loss of his love. Sitting next to Maxwell, are two women who—shown through flashbacks—have experienced heartache and loss of another kind. The music video ends with Maxwell walking outside of the diner, seemingly still underwater, as he sings "make it go away."
In the feature film Love and Basketball, the song is played as the main characters realize their true feelings for each other and make love. In the movie Stomp the Yard (2007), Columbus Short and Meagan Good kiss for the first time, when they decide to go out. Maxwell's cover version of the song is played in the background.
It has been used three times in the US version of So You Think You Can Dance. The first time was in an August 2006 episode, when contestant Allison Holker danced her final solo to the song. The second time was in a July 2008 episode, when contestant Katee Shean danced her solo to the song. The third time was in a July 2009 episode; choreographed by Tyce Diorio for Melissa Sandvig and Ade Obayomi, and depicting a woman's struggle with breast cancer, it brought the hosts including Mia Michaels and the audience to tears. Diorio went on to give the same song and choreography to contemporary dancer Robert White and jazz dancer Charlie Bruce on the 24 January 2010 episode of the British version of So You Think You Can Dance.
A karaoke version was featured in the TV series You're the Worst (season 1, series finale "Fists and Feet and Stuff"), sung by Lindsay Jillian (Kether Donohue).
On 15 June 1997, Maxwell taped an episode of the MTV concert series MTV Unplugged in New York City, performing his own songs as well as covers of songs by Kate Bush ("This Woman's Work").
Japanese singer ACO covered this song on her 2001 album Material. In 2009 Greg Laswell recorded this song on his EP Covers. A version performed by Emma Ejwertz was used in the television show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in the season 6 episode "Dee Gives Birth". In 2011 a version by Gwyneth Paltrow appeared on the Every Mother Counts album, an all-female/all-mother compilation CD released by Starbucks which accompanied No Woman, No Cry, a documentary on maternal health, directed by Christy Turlington Burns.
Octover, a Singapore electronic duo released their self-titled album (2013) with a cover of "This Woman's Work".
In March 2013, the English folk trio Lady Maisery released a cover version as a charity download, with proceeds donated to the charity End Violence Against Women. The song also features on their second album, Mayday.
Lillie McCloud performed on the song on the third season of The X Factor (US) on 20 November 2013 for British Invasion Night.
Australian singers including Darren Hayes, Marlisa, Nathaniel, Pete Murray and Flea (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers) covered the track in 2014 as the collective "Hope for Isla and Jude", in support of Sydney siblings who suffer from the rare disease Sanfilippo syndrome. The cover reached number 79 on the Australian Singles Chart.
In December 2014 the English singer-songwriter Megan Henwood released a cover of the song as a charity download, with all proceeds going to the Médecins Sans Frontières South Sudan appeal.
In 2015, the South Korean singer-songwriter Kim Jonghyun of SHINee sang a live cover of the song on MBC Music's "Picnic Live".
The song was also sung during the Judges Houses stage of the 12th season of The X Factor UK, by contestant Seann Miley Moore.
In 2016, Lapsley covered this seminal ballad on her debut album "Long Way Home." http://www.idolator.com/7649145/lapsley-covers-kate-bush-this-womans-work
It was performed by Theo Llewellyn and Jordan Gray in The Battle round of The Voice UK 2016.
In March 2016 Gary Lutton, an acoustic guitarist from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the winner of Sky Arts Guitar Star, arranged a unique solo version for acoustic guitar. http://garylutton.com/new-video/
On December 30th, 2016 new bachata artist Jayro Rosado released a cover of the song.