This is your pregnancy. We will of course observe your birth choices, keeping it in the forefront of your maternity care. However if any concerns arise during one of your visits this will be discussed with you in-depth so you are able to make an informed choice about your care and an agreed plan can be made.
If your pregnancy has been uncomplicated and you are having a hospital birth, it is advisable you stay at home for as long as possible during the early stages of labour, as long as your baby is moving and you are coping with the contractions.
What to do when your labour has started
If you think your labour has started, you should contact us.
Telephone us if you experience any of the following:
- you have any concerns about the movements of your baby
- you think your waters have broken
- your contractions are becoming more painful and regular and you need midwifery support
- you have experienced any blood loss
- you have any other concerns
Our midwives will then be able to help you decide whether you can stay at home or need to be reviewed in hospital.
Natural ways to start labour
There are no proven ways of starting your labour yourself at home. You may have heard that certain things can trigger labour, such as herbal supplements and having sex, but there's no evidence that these work. Having sex won't cause harm, but you should avoid having sex if your waters have broken as there's an increased risk of infection.
Other methods that aren't supported by scientific evidence include acupuncture, homeopathy, hot baths, castor oil, and enemas.
For more information on induction, you can read the NICE guidelines on induction of labour. NICE also has information for the public on induction of labour.
You can find pregnancy and baby apps and tools in the NHS apps library.
Induction of Labour
An induction of labour is one that's been started artificially, it's fairly common and each year 1 in 5 labours are induced in the UK.
Sometimes labour can be induced if your baby is overdue or there's any sort of risk to you or your baby's health. The risk could be if you have a health condition such as high blood pressure or your baby isn't growing.
Inductions will usually be planned in advance and you'll be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages with your doctor or midwife for why your labour should be induced.
What should I bring into hospital with me?
Our advice is that you pack your hospital maternity bag 2 weeks prior to when you're due to give birth. We have put together some suggestions below.
Please note that concessionary parking is available, please make sure to speak to your midwife during your stay in order to receive this.
- Any hospital notes, a copy of your birth plan and a list of contact telephone numbers
- An old t-shirt for labour or any comfortable clothing
- A pair of socks
- Personal items - toiletries, tissues, tennis ball or wooden massager, massage olis, pillow, water spray, lip balm
- Energy tablets
- Hair bands or clips for long hair
- Snacks, magazines, newspaper, puzzle books
- Soap, toothpaste, toothbrush
- Change for the car park and phones
- Breast pads
- Maternity pads and disposable knickers
- Support bra to wear while breastfeeding
- Dressing gown, slippers, nightwear
- Music - such as an ipod
- comfortable clothing to go home in
For your partner:
- Comfortable clothing
- Suitable indoor footwear
- Meals and snacks (only mothers receive hospital meals)
For your baby:
- Baby grow
- Vests and cardigan
- Baby bath towel
- Cotton wool
- Infant formula ready made if bottle feeding
Several methods of pain relief are available during labour and your midwife can talk you through these.
Relaxation and breathing exercises
Learn how to relax, stay calm and breathe deeply.
Keep moving around, your position can make a difference so try kneeling, walking around or rocking backwards and forwards.
Birthing pools are available, water can help you relax and make contractions seem less painful. If the birthing pool is apart of your birthing plan our maternity team will do their best to accommodate this and if there are no concerns. The birthing pool is also on a first come first serve basis, when you or your partners calls the unit at the beginning of labour please mention to them that your preference is to utilise the birthing pool.
Having a bath or standing in the shower can also help during the first stages of labour. The National Childbirth Trust offer more information on water during birth.
Gas and air
This is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide gas, it won't remove all the pain but it can help reduce it and make it more bearable. Many women like it because it's easy to use and they control it themselves.
You breathe in the gas and air through a mask or mouthpiece, which you hold yourself and there are no harmful side effects to you or your baby but please be aware it can make you feel light-headed. Some women also found that it makes them feel sick, sleepy or unable to concentrate, if this happens you can stop using it. Your midwife will help guide you on use.
This is a painkiller which is given via an injection, the effect lasts between 2-4 hours and can make some women feel woozy, forgetful and sick, it it hasn't worn off towards the end of labour it can make it difficult to push. If pethidine is given too close to the time of delivery it may affect your baby's breathing so please speak to your midwife who will be able to help you decide on when the best time to use this is.
An epidural is an continuous infusion of painkillers which are administered in your lower back. It numbs the nerves that carry the pain impulses from the birth canal to the brain. For most women, an epidural gives complete pain relief. It can be helpful for women who are having a long or particularly painful labour, or who are becoming tired. An anaesthetist is the only person who can give an epidural.
Your birthing partner can be anyone you choose; your partner, a close friend or a relative. The most important thing your birth partner can do is to just be with you during this new chapter.
Beforehand, it's good to talk to your birthing partner about the type of birth you would like and the things that you would prefer not to do, so they can help support you in your decisions. It can help to go through your birth plan together.
Your birthing partner could also accompany you to antenatal classes to learn other ways and techniques to help support you:
- Keep you company and help to pass the time during the early stages
- Hold your hand, wipe your face and give you sips of water
- Massage your back and shoulders, help you move about, change position or anything else that helps
- Comfort you as your labour progresses and contractions get stronger
- Remind you how to use relaxation and breathing techniques, even breathing with you
- Support your decisions, such as the pain relief you choose
- Help you explain to the midwife or doctor what you need - and the other way around - which can help you feel much more in control of the situation
- Tell you what's happening as your baby is being born, if you can't see for yourself
Cutting the umbilical cord - can be done by your birth partner and you can talk to your midwife about this.
For many parents, being together during labour and welcoming your baby together is an experience you cannot put into words.