Help yourself to a normal birth
In the majority of cases normal birth is best for the mother and
A few women have specific conditions where an operative birth
would be recommended, but you are advised to plan a normal birth
unless advised otherwise.
Support in labour
Having a birth partner who is supportive, calm and can stay with
you throughout labour can increase your chance of a normal birth,
and reduce your need to use drugs in labour for pain
It can be your partner, sister, mother, friend or anyone else
that you choose. They can help by giving you massage, drinks,
positive emotional support, praise and encouragement as well as
supporting you to move to different positions through labour. Make
sure they know what they need to do before you go into labour.
Prepare yourself emotionally and physically for labour and the
birth of your baby.
Things that might help include:
- Practicing relaxation techniques to help you cope with
- Attending antenatal classes, either hospital, NCT or active
- If you're going into hospital to have your baby go for a
- Aqua natal classes.
- Emotional freedom techniques.
- Hypnobirth techniques.
- Maintaining a regular exercise regime if you have one, tailored
to how many weeks pregnant you are.
- Going for walks or swimming.
- Give yourself the opportunity to chat to your midwife about any
Stay at home as long as you can
Staying at home in early labour gives you a better chance of
having a shorter and more positive experience of labour. You're
less likely to need medical interventions in the form of drugs to
speed up your labour, or to help you give birth when you go to
hospital. This makes sense when you realise that it's much easier
to rest and relax in your own home, and eat and drink when you want
to. You can also watch the TV and do other things to distract
yourself in the comfort of your own environment.
You'll be able to save your energy for the hard work that's to
Ask your community midwife to give you the information leaflet
on the 'latent phase' of labour, which has lots of information and
tips in to help you cope.
Try to avoid an epidural
Although epidurals give the most effective pain relief in
labour, they can affect your contractions, make you less mobile and
restricted to being on the bed, increase the need for drugs to
speed up your labour and make it more likely that you'll need help
from a ventouse (suction-cup) or forceps to give birth.
If you do choose to have epidural, make sure you have it when
you're well established in labour - your midwife will be able to
advise on this.
There are information leaflets on pain relief in labour which
your midwife can give you in pregnancy to help you make
Have a home birth
Evidence supports women planning to labour and give birth at
home if they are healthy and have no complications in
If you plan a home birth you are more likely to:
- Have a normal birth.
- Not require drugs to speed up labour.
- Not require drugs to help you cope with contractions.
- Stay in control of your birthing experience.
- Successfully breastfeed your baby.
- Have less risk of postnatal infections.
Stay off your bottom
Being upright and mobile helps the baby move down through your
pelvis and helps you labour more efficiently.
In the second stage of labour when you are pushing your baby
out, staying off your bottom allows your pelvis and the bottom of
your spine to move and allow more room for the baby to be born. It
also makes it more likely that your baby will be able to cope well
with the contractions.
You should use positions such as:
- Lying on your side.
- All fours.
Get in water
Using water such as a relaxing in a bath or shower or using a
birthing pool has lots of benefits for labour. It helps you cope
with contractions, and will reduce your need for other forms of
pain relief. It can also help your contractions work better because
you'll be more relaxed.
Just because you labour in water doesn't mean you have to have a
water birth - although you can if you want to.
Avoid having your labour induced unless there's a good reason
Induction of labour automatically means a medicalised labour
with continuous foetal monitoring. This makes it much more
likely that you'll need an epidural for pain relief and help with
forceps or ventouse (suction-cup) for your baby to be born. It may
also increase the risk of you needing a caesarean
If your midwife or obstetrician recommends induction of labour
for a medical reason make sure you understand why it's being
suggested and which type of induction would be best for
Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Have your baby's heart beat monitored intermittently in
One of the best ways to tell whether your baby is coping well
with contractions is to have the heartbeat listened to in labour.
For a healthy mother with a healthy baby the best way is to listen
every 15 minutes, and for you not to be strapped to a monitor (CTG
This means that you can be more mobile in labour, use water in
the pool, bath or shower to help you cope with contractions, and
are less likely to need obstetric interventions to help your baby
to be born.
In some cases it will be recommended that your baby's heartbeat
is listened to continuously (a 'trace') and your midwife will
discuss this with you if needed. There is more information in a
patient leaflet called 'Listening to your baby's heartbeat in
Oxytocin, the hormone (natural chemical) that makes your uterus
contract and cervix dilate in labour works best when you are able
to relax and concentrate on your labour.
Being in a dark, quiet, relaxing atmosphere helps oxytocin to
work better, so have comfortable pillows, relaxing music, massage
oils and anything else that will help you relax in the place you
choose to labour.
It's worth getting your birth partner to make sure that anyone
in the room speaks to you quietly and gently, and doesn't disturb
you when you're having a contraction.
Unless your midwife has pulled the emergency buzzer, no one
should enter your room without knocking and waiting for a
Keep your energy and fluid levels up
It's important that you make sure you are well hydrated in
labour. This will help your contractions work efficiently, and will
help your baby cope with the contractions. Drinking isotonic sports
drinks (NOT energy drinks) will help you stay well hydrated, so
it's worth making sure you have some ready for your
It's a good idea to bring in some favourite snacks as well to
help keep your energy levels up. Your birth partners may well need
some energy foods too.
Some women with complicated pregnancies will be advised not to
eat in labour, but your midwife will be able to advise on this.
Speak to a Supervisor of Midwives
If you have any questions about the advice or information you
have been given, or would like to talk about your experience or
options for your birth you may contact a Supervisor of Midwives
- Asking any of the staff to find a SOM for you to talk to
- Telephoning the main switchboard on 0117 923 0000
- Telephoning the community midwifery office on 0117 342