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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Manage your anxieties about giving birth, with some helpful advice from mums who’ve been there.
The ideal position for your baby to be in for labour and birth is head down, their back towards the front of your stomach.
The membrane sweep is a drug-free way of helping to bring on labour when you are going past your due date.
The moment has arrived. Your contractions are regular and building up, and your baby is really on his or her way…
From contractions to your waters breaking, these are the typical signs that your body is getting ready for labour.
The waiting game 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.
There are quite a few pain-relief options available and it’s good to know what they are before you go into labour.
A caesarean section is an operation where an obstetrician makes a cut in your stomach and womb and lifts your baby out through it.
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.
Your midwife will check on how your baby is coping during your labour and there are different ways to do this.
- NICE (2014) Intrapartum care: care of healthy women and their babies during childbirth, National Institute of Health and Care Excellencehttp://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190
- NHS Choices (accessed 30/01/2015) Inducing labourhttp://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/induction-labour.aspx
- NICE Guideline (accessed 30/01/2015) CG70 Induction of labourhttps://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg70/resources/guidance-induction-of-labour-pdf
ℹLast reviewed on April 1st, 2015. Next review date April 1st, 2018.