The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Leeds Maternity Care

FAQ for labour and birth

Will my baby be born on its due date?

Very few babies arrive on their estimated due date (EDD). Most babies are ready to be born from 37 weeks onwards, but some do not make an appearance until days after the EDD/due date! However, we do not recommend that pregnancy be allowed to go beyond 42 weeks so induction of labour will be offered around this time.

What will I need to get ready for labour and the birth of my baby?

Whether you're planning to have your baby at home, in hospital or at a midwifery unit, you should get a few things ready at least two weeks before your due date.

  • You may want to include the following:
  • something loose and comfortable to wear during labour: it shouldn't restrict you from moving around or make you too hot - you may need about three changes of clothes
  • two or three comfortable and supportive bras, including nursing bras if you're planning to breastfeed: remember, your breasts will be much larger than usual
  • about 24 super-absorbent sanitary pads
  • your wash bag with toothbrush, hairbrush, flannel, soap and other toiletries
  • towels
  • things to help you pass the time and relax, for example, books, magazines or music
  • a sponge or water spray to cool you down
  • front-opening nighties if you're going to breastfeed
  • dressing gown and slippers
  • five or six pairs of pants
  • a loose, comfortable outfit to wear after you have given birth, and to come home in
  • clothes (including a hat) and nappies for the baby
  • a shawl or blanket to wrap the baby in
  • cotton wool

What will happen when I go into labour?

Before your labour becomes properly established you may have a period of contractions that are quite short lasting, irregular and mild in strength. This is known as the latent phase. Contractions can come and go over several days before established labour starts. This is normal. The best thing to do is stay calm and relaxed at home until your labour is better established.

In these early stages it is good to find something to distract you from the contractions. You might what to listen to some music, watch television or go for a walk. Have plenty to drink and frequent light meals or snacks. If you are tired try to rest. Having a warm bath or shower and using a hot water bottle or gel pack to apply some local heat to your lower back or underneath your bump can really help. You may also want to try taking 2 paracetomol, every 4 to 6 hours, remembering you cannot have more than 8 tablets in 24 hours.

Over time your contractions will become longer lasting and stronger. If this is your first baby you will normally need to be experiencing at least two or three contractions, that last 45 seconds or more, every 10 minutes before you are in active labour. It is possible for active labour to start more suddenly, particularly if you have already had a vaginal birth. Remember every birth is different, so it is best to stay relaxed and be prepared for whatever happens.

It is usually a good idea to stay at home until your labour is properly established but this is not always possible. You can ring the MAC at any time to speak to a midwife if you need some advice.

Do I need to book a water birth?

No. If the birthing pool is free when you arrive at the hospital you can ask your midwife if you can use it. You do not need to have attended the waterbirth class. For some women a waterbirth is not recommended, your midwife will discuss this with you.

My midwife has offered me a stretch and sweep. What is it? and why has she offered it to me?

You may be offered a membrane sweep to help you go into labour before 42 weeks. It is more likely to help you to go into labour naturally. The membrane sweep involves your obstetrician or midwife placing a finger into the cervix and making a circular, sweeping movement to separate the membranes that surround the baby, or massaging the cervix if this is not possible. It may cause some discomfort, pain or a small amount of bleeding, which is normal. You should be offered a membrane sweep at your 40 and 41 week antenatal appointments during your first pregnancy, or your 41 week antenatal appointment if you have had a baby before.

What is induction of labour?

For the majority of women labour and birth is a normal, physiological process. However, for a number of women this process will need to be started artificially. The most common reasons as to why an induction of labour is recommended are:

To avoid a pregnancy lasting longer than 42 weeks; known as a prolonged pregnancy. Normally a pregnancy lasts from between 37 and 42 weeks.
If a woman’s waters break near to your due date but labour hasn’t started after 24 hours (around 7/10 women will go into labour naturally within 24 hours after the waters have broken).

For a number of women induction of labour will be offered if complications arise for either mother or baby. Common complications include:

  • You suffer from diabetes
  • Your babies growth has slowed down
  • You are suffering from pregnancy related high blood pressure
  • You suffer from another medical condition

How is labour induced?

There are a number of ways that labour can be started and to decide the best way for you, your midwife will need to carry out a vaginal examination to assess the cervix. The methods used to induce labour include: Prostaglandin induction (tablet/gel) and/or breaking the waters. As labour approaches the cervix changes from a long tube to a flat disc and can start to open up a little (dilate). If you have had some contractions or period type pain, these changes may already have occurred. If this is the case it may be possible to break your waters at this point. However, for most women it is necessary to use prostaglandins to start labour.

My doctor says I need to have a caesarean section. What will happen?

There are situations where the safest option for you and your baby is to have a caesarean section. Your Obstetrian may recommend a caesarean section to you in the presence of certain risk factors. He/She will discuss this with you. You will be given time to think about the information you are given and to ask questions.

Once delivery has been planned some extra tests will be carried out for you in the hospital antenatal clinic. You will then be given a date and time to come in to have your baby. You will be asked to fast from mid-night the night before your admission. The delivery is nearly always performed using an epidural/spinal anaesthesia, which means you will be awake for the birth of your baby. The baby will be delivered through the abdomen. A cut is made just below the bikini line, so the scar is usually hidden in your pubic hair.

It is a major operation, and will take some time to recover from. You will be given painkillers to help with the pain, which are safe if you are breastfeeding. You should expect to stay in hospital for a few nights.