Giving birth can be an exciting but daunting time. Being prepared and knowing what to expect will help to put your mind at rest. Unless you are having your baby at home, it is a good idea to have a bag packed ready for the birth. Most maternity units provide a list of things you should bring. The NHS choices website also has information about what you should take with you to the hospital.
If you have attended antenatal classes, it is likely that your midwife will have discussed the signs of labour with you. As pregnancy progresses, many women become more aware of having Braxton Hicks contractions (when their abdomen tightens and then relaxes). Establishing regular contractions lasting for more than 30 seconds is one sign that labour may have started. These contractions will gradually become stronger, longer lasting and more frequent.
Other signs of labour include
nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
a ‘show’ (a small amount of pink, sticky mucus which has helped to seal the cervix during the pregnancy comes out of the vagina).
The waters breaking (this is when the bag of fluid that the baby has been floating in during the pregnancy breaks. It may be felt as a slow trickle of clear water coming from the vagina or as a sudden gush of water from the vagina. You must contact the maternity unit straight away if you think that your waters might have broken.
If you are uncertain about whether or not you are in labour, you can always phone your maternity team for advice and information.
Bleeding from the vagina during pregnancy may be a sign that something is wrong. If you notice vaginal bleeding at any time during your pregnancy you should report it to your doctor or midwife straight away. Some causes of vaginal bleeding during pregnancy are more serious than others so it is important that you are assessed and a cause is found as soon as possible. Click here for more information on bleeding in pregnancy.
If your midwife advises you to go to the maternity unit, remember to take any hand held notes you may have as well as your bag of clothes.
When you arrive at the maternity unit, your midwife will take you to a room where she will help you to change. She will ask you some questions about what has been happening and may also examine you to check you and the baby and to establish how far your labour has progressed. If at any time you are unsure about what is happening, you can ask your doctor or midwife to explain things to you.
Learning a little about the stages of labour will help you to understand what is happening and what to expect when you give birth. Antenatal classes are a useful way of finding out more about what to expect during labour.
Click on the links below to find out more about what happens in labour
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