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I think I’m in labour – what now?

Please call the birthing unit before you come into hospital so we can be prepared for your arrival.

It can be difficult to tell when labour has started but you’re welcome to call the birthing unit or your midwife at any time. The midwives will ask you questions about how long your contractions are lasting and how often they’re coming, about any vaginal loss and also about your baby’s movements. In general when there is less than three to five minutes between each wave of contractions it’s time to go to the hospital.

Should you be experiencing strong signs of labour including regular contractions less than ten minutes apart, waters breaking or blood loss, please contact the midwives to determine how far labour has progressed. If the signs of labour are not yet very strong it’s generally better for you to stay at home, but the midwife will be able to advise you if you should stay home a little longer or come to hospital for assessment.

During your pregnancy it’s important to contact the birthing unit without delay if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • vaginal bleeding
  • ruptured membranes
  • continuous leaking of fluid
  • premature labour prior to 37 weeks
  • unusual or severe abdominal pain
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness
  • regular contractions
  • changes in your baby’s movements.
As always, in the event of a medical emergency please call 000.

Being active throughout your labour and birth can help you to manage contractions and to relax your mind and body. It’s important to understand the benefits, risks and alternative methods available when deciding which techniques to use. Your support people can assist you with some of these techniques. Knowing your options assists you to make a choice that’s right for you.

These may include but are not limited to:

Being active

Benefits: being upright and active uses gravity to support effective contractions and helps baby move into position.

It can also act as a distraction to the contractions.

Examples of being active:

  • varying positions during labour such as: standing, walking, lying on your side, leaning on your partner or support person or squatting
  • using the bath for warm water immersion
  • using the shower and warm water over the area where you feel the most pain
  • placing a hot pack over the area where you feel most pain
  • acupressure and acupuncture
  • sterile water injections
  • maintaining good hydration by drinking fluids
  • maintaining energy levels with small and regular snacks.

Being relaxed

Benefits: promotes endorphin and oxytocin production, reduces the production of adrenaline which can cause the fight / flight response which can slow labour down.

Examples of being relaxed:

  • breathing the tension away during and between contractions
  • women need a quiet and safe place in which to birth their babies so it’s important to keep the noise and disruption in the room only to what is required
  • listen to music that you find calming
  • aromatherapy (concentrated essential oils added to massage oil or oil burner)
  • dim the lights in your room
  • have someone give you a massage
  • use visualisation – positive imagery to assist relaxation
  • hypnotherapy – using hypnosis as a state of relaxation, to achieve changes in psychological aspects of pain and anxiety.

Choose your support people carefully, make sure you discuss your birth preferences with them and have support people who support your decisions.

It’s important to think about who you want with you in labour i.e. your support people. Make sure you discuss your birth preferences with them and have people who support your decision and can help staff understand your wishes.   Usually you have your partner and maybe one or two other special people. Don’t feel pressured by what’s expected, rather choose the people that will make you feel comfortable, support you and know what you want, if you can’t tell us at the time and that you want to share this special time with.

You’ll find a maximum of up to three support people should provide you with adequate care and support.

Your support person can:

  • support you in upright and active positions
  • help to make you physically comfortable
  • offer emotional support and provide positive encouragement
  • hold a hot pack in place
  • be there for you.
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