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.

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  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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