Assisted birth

Even if labour has got off to a good start, it can sometimes slow down or problems may arise. If so, you may need some help to deliver your baby safely. These procedures are called ‘interventions’.

If your medical team feels you need help during labour, or your baby needs help to be born, they will talk this through with you and explain any procedure they feel you need.

You should have a chance to ask questions and be a part of any decision that is made. You will also be asked to give your consent before any interventions take place.


Your body makes a hormone called oxytocin, which causes your contractions. If you need help with getting contractions going, you can be given an artificial version called syntocinon.

Syntocinon is given non-stop through a needle into a vein, called a drip. It helps make your contractions stronger and more regular and can be used to speed things up when you're already in labour, this is called augmentation.

Amniotomy (breaking your waters)

This is also called artificial rupture of the membranes (ARM) or breaking your waters. If your labour isn’t progressing or other problems are identified and your waters haven't broken, your midwife or doctor may break the amniotic sac for you.

It doesn't hurt your baby at all and for you it will feel similar to an internal examination. The contractions afterwards may become much more painful, so it's worth talking to your midwife about pain relief before your waters are broken.

Read more about what to expect if your waters break naturally

Ventouse or forceps

If the pushing stage, or second stage, of labour is very long and your baby’s heartbeat is changing, the medical team may suggest forceps or ventouse to help deliver him.

Forceps look a bit like metal salad tongs and are positioned with one part on each side of your baby's head. A ventouse is a suction cup that attaches to your baby's head. Whichever is used, the doctor or midwife will gently pull as you push with your contractions to ease your baby out.

If you have a forceps or ventouse delivery, your baby's head may look a bit squashed, bruised or swollen after the birth but this will disappear within a few days.


If you have a forceps or ventouse delivery, you may need an episiotomy. This is a cut made in the area between your vagina and anus, called the perineum. It will be stitched after the birth. Even without the forceps or ventouse the perineum may tear during delivery.

Caesarean section

Sometimes during labour, your healthcare team may decide that a caesarean section is the safest way for the baby to be born. If you didn’t know you needed a caesarean before you went into labour, it is called an ‘emergency’ caesarean.

It sounds dramatic but it doesn’t mean that your baby was in immediate danger – just that the caesarean was not planned beforehand.

Read more

  • A happy mother with her newborn baby.

    Delayed cord clamping (DCC)

    Cutting the cord immediately after the birth has been routine practice for 50-60 years but more recently research is showing that it is not good for the baby.

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    What to expect when your waters break

    Your waters can break before you go in to hospital but they are more likely to break during labour, or they can even be broken for you by your midwife to speed up your labour (a process known as artificial rupture of membranes).

  • 5 positive ways to prepare for labour

    Manage your anxieties about giving birth, with some helpful advice from mums who’ve been there.

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    Exercises to get your baby into a good position for birth

    The final few weeks of pregnancy can be difficult: You’re probably feeling impatient to meet your baby, nervous about labour and also tired of coping with carrying a heavy load - and all the niggles that come with it.

  • Pregnant woman being checked over by doctor.

    What is a membrane sweep?

    The membrane sweep is a drug-free way of helping to bring on labour when you are going past your due date.

  • Woman in hospital bed ready to give birth.

    What to do when labour starts

    The moment has arrived. Your contractions are regular and building up, and your baby is really on his or her way…

  • Woman holding her back in discomfort.

    Symptoms of labour

    Typical signs that your body is getting ready for labour.

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    Can anything bring labour on?

    The waiting game. It can be torturous. Your due date has been and gone, you feel the size of a mothership and you’re oh so tired of waddling to the loo every five minutes.

  • Woman in labour wearing gas and air breathing mask.

    Pain relief in labour and birth

    There are quite a few pain-relief options available and it’s good to know what they are before you go into labour.

  • caesarean section

    Caesarean section

    A caesarean section is an operation where an obstetrician makes a cut in your stomach and womb and lifts your baby out through it.

  • Woman lying on hospital bed ready to give birth.

    Induction of labour

    In most pregnancies, labour will start on its own but in some situations your labour may need to be started artificially. This is called 'induction’ of labour.

  • Woman in labour.

    Monitoring your baby in labour

    Your midwife will check on how your baby is coping during your labour and there are different ways to do this.


  1. NICE (2014) Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth, National Institute of Health and Care Excellence
  2. NHS Choices (accessed 30/01/2015) Inducing labour
  3. NICE Guideline (accessed 30/01/2015) CG70 Induction of labour
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Last reviewed on April 1st, 2015. Next review date April 1st, 2018.

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