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Common labour and birth questions

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After a long 40 weeks or so, the time has finally come to meet your new baby. If you’re feeling a bit wobbly about it, don’t worry - we’ve all been there, and we’re here to share all the useful stuff we’ve learned through experience. It’s completely normal to feel a little scared, but just remember there’s lots of help around you.

Common questions asked about labour and birth

What's a birth plan and how do I make one?

Your midwife will ask you if you’d like to make a birth plan. It’s a written note of what you’d like to happen once you’ve gone into labour. It’s your body, so don’t be afraid to speak up. Your midwife can talk you through your options, and help you decide what’s right for you. Your birth plan is a helpful guide and a reminder of your choices - but you’re free to change your mind at any point.

How you have your baby is your choice, and all experiences are different. There’s a lot to consider, like where you will choose to give birth, how you want to do it, and who will be there. Find out more at Ready Steady Baby.

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What happens if I change my mind about the birth plan?

That’s totally fine. You’re the one giving birth, so you can change your mind about how you’re going to do it at any time. It’s your decision and you know what’s best for you. Your birth plan helps to give your midwife and doctor an idea of what you’re thinking, but you can always make changes.

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What do I need to do before I go into hospital?

There’s a lot to think about before you go into hospital, so try to plan ahead so you don’t have to worry when the time comes. You don’t want to be running around looking for things when you go into labour!

Here’s a list of a few things you might want to have to hand, so you’re all set when your baby decides it’s time to make an appearance:

  • Phone number for the maternity unit or midwife.
  • Phone numbers of your birthing partner(s).
  • Your work number, if you’re still working.
  • A backup birthing partner, in case you can't get hold of your first choice.
  • Your birth plan, if you have one.
  • Your pregnancy file (your blue notes).
  • If you have kids already – arrange for someone to look after them.
  • A car seat ready for the baby to come home in.
  • Clothes for your new baby, including a warm outfit for them to come home in.

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What should I pack with me?

Here’s a handy checklist of all the things you might need to take with you to hospital:

  • A water spray to keep you nice and cool - even a plant spray bottle is ideal for quick spritz!
  • A couple of facecloths for cooling your face and skin.
  • Music player to help you relax a wee bit during labour.
  • Unscented oil or a light body lotion for your birth partner to massage you.
  • Thermal pack - the sort you can heat in a microwave, it stays warm for hours. These can be wrapped in a towel and used as a warm, comforting compress to relieve aches.
  • An old nightie, front opening for easy breastfeeding. Or old t-shirt, dressing-gown and flip flops or slippers.
  • Hairbrush and hair bands or clips.
  • Wash bag with toiletries, toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Take your mobile and a charger. You can use your phone to keep in touch, post pictures - and spread the love!
  • Drinks and snacks for you and your partner.

Things you may want, following the birth:

  • Two nighties, front opening for easy breastfeeding.
  • Comfortable day clothes, like a tracksuit, again with a front-opening top for easy breastfeeding.
  • Underwear and nursing bras – you may find disposable pants useful for the first few days.
  • Maternity pads or night-time sanitary pads.
  • Breast pads.
  • Tissues.
  • Unscented toiletries and cosmetics.
  • Vests and sleep suits for the baby.
  • Newborn nappies at the ready.

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How do I know I'm in labour?

Knowing what may happen during labour will help you feel prepared. Labour is different for every woman – and often for every baby a mum might have. You're likely to recognise the signs of labour when the time comes, but if you're in any doubt, don't hesitate to contact your midwife or maternity unit.

The main signs of labour starting are strong, regular contractions and may include a ‘show’. A show is when the plug of mucus from your cervix comes away. Other signs that labour is beginning include your waters breaking, backache, and an urge to go to the toilet - which is caused by your baby's head pressing on your bowel.

Find out more about going into labour.

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What happens during labour?

Health professionals describe labour and birth as being in three stages. Knowing what is likely to happen during each stage will help you plan and prepare for your baby's arrival - something you may feel both excited and nervous about at the same time.

Discovering ways to keep yourself as calm and relaxed as possible at each stage will help you have the best experience.

Get familiar with the three stages of labour.

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What are good ways to stay comfortable and calm during labour?

Understanding what’s most likely to keep you comfortable and calm is key. Techniques like music, having the right person with you, the right environment, some deep breathing exercises, yoga poses, and pain relief can help during birth and labour.

Explore different techniques for a calm and comfortable labour.

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As a parent to be / birthing partner, how can I help my partner during labour?

Partners play an important role in pregnancy and birth. Here are some great links to help you feel prepared and ready to welcome your new baby into the world. Here's a handy guide to helping your partner through labour.

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More information

For more information on going into labour and giving birth, speak to your midwife. There’s also a lot of useful information at Ready Steady Baby.

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Last updated: 5 Feb, 2020