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Working out whether you are in the early stages of labour (sometimes called the latent phase of labour) or not, can be very confusing for you.

Remember that every woman’s labour is different and sometimes it can take a long time. This is perfectly normal. If you think you are in the early stages of labour, the main thing to remember is to stay calm and relaxed.

We have produced a leaflet that will answer some of your questions and give you lots of suggestions to help you through the early part of your labour.

We encourage you to walk around during your labour. If it is necessary to monitor your baby’s heartbeat, it will be performed in consultation with you and your partner. Your partner is encouraged to stay with you during your labour and to participate in the care of your baby. You are quite welcome to wear your day clothing on the unit if you wish.

Whilst you are in hospital you will have a midwife who is responsible for your care and who will be able to give you all the necessary guidance and support you need during labour and caring for your new baby.

It may be necessary to induce your labour towards the end of your pregnancy. This may be due to several reasons. If your pregnancy progresses to 40 weeks (due date) you community midwife or consultant will continue to monitor your pregnancy. If your baby hasn’t arrived by 40 weeks + 12 days you will be offered the option of induction.

We may also induce you for varying medical reasons depending on the risk to mother and baby.

For more detail on the induction of labour please read our patient information leaflet.

Labour is a natural process but it can be very painful so it is important to learn about all the available ways you can relieve pain in labour and how your partner/labour supporter can help you.

Remember to be flexible as you may find you may want more or less pain relief than you had planned and more effective pain relief may be advised to assist with delivery.

Attend parentcraft classes as these may help you to understand the mechanism of labour and instruct you on how you can help yourself. Ask your midwife for our information leaflet of the pain relief that is available at UHCW . It can be helpful if you write your ideas down in a birth plan (an example can be found at the back of your patient held notes)

Read our patient information leaflet on pain relief in labour


Information about pain relief during caesarean section can be found here. If you need this information in another language, you can find links to it here.


More information about pain relief during labour or during a caesarean section can be found here.

Most babies come through labour without problems but there are a few who don’t cope so well. During contractions blood can’t get through the placenta (afterbirth) so easily. This is normal and most babies cope without any problems. If a baby is not coping well, this may be reflected in the pattern of their heartbeat.

Your baby’s heart rate can be measured either at regular intervals (intermittently listening to your baby’s heart) or continuously (electronic foetal monitoring). Before starting any monitoring, the midwife or doctor will take your pulse rate as well as listening to your baby’s heart to make sure they can tell them apart.

Read more on monitoring during labour.

Very few people plan on having a caesarean section. The ones that are planned are usually due to the circumstances described below. Caesarean sections that are unplanned are usually done because the baby is in distress or perhaps the baby simply cannot pass through your birth canal.

Even if you have had a caesarean section with your first baby, it is possible for you to have a vaginal birth with a subsequent pregnancy. You can discuss this with your community midwife at your first appointment and they will refer you to the appropriate clinician.