Giving Birth

Your pregnancy is as individual as you are and there are a variety of ways you may experience the beginning of labour and birth. You may find it helpful to consider the things that will help you cope while at home and discuss these with your midwife using your personalised care plan. These plans can be downloaded here: My maternity journey - a personal care plan. If you are unable to download this, please ask your midwife to print a copy for you.

Labour is a physiological process, which can often take a long time. Remember, every labour is different, however, every labour has three stages:

  • The first stage, when the neck of the womb (cervix) opens to 10 centimetres.
  • The second stage, when the baby moves down through the vagina and is born.
  • The third stage, when the afterbirth (placenta) is delivered.

The latent phase is the early part of the first stage of labour and you may experience contractions, however, they are often irregular in occurrence, short lasting and milder in strength than those when you are in the active phase of your labour. The active phase is when your labour has become established. This means that the contractions are stronger and regular and lasting longer than previously. Both the latent and active phases take place during the first stage. Eventually, at the end of the first stage, the neck of the womb has opened up to 10cms and is described as being ‘fully dilated. 

Signs of labour beginning:

The ‘show’ - As the neck of the womb begins to soften and open, the mucus which has been protecting the entrance to your womb comes away. This is called the ‘show’. It is has a jelly-like appearance and can often be streaked with blood, either bright red, pink or brown. It may also be clear. This is all normal. Having a ‘show’ means that your body is starting to get ready for labour – but the actual birth of your baby is very likely to be some time away. Some women have a ‘show’ several days before the labour starts. Some women have several ‘shows’.

Before active labour starts, your waters may break. During pregnancy, your baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid – the ‘waters’. For some women (about 1 in 10), the first sign that labour is going to start is that the waters begin to leak.  If the ‘waters’ break and labour has not yet begun, this is still normal. The majority of women (about 60%) will go into labour within 24 hours of their ‘waters’ breaking. However, during this time you will need to be assessed by a midwife.  It is not, however, essential for your waters to break for you to go into labour.

If you would like more information on what to expect during labour, including what you and your birth partner can do to help you get through this stage of your pregnancy, please download and read our information booklet on The Latent Phase of Labour

You may also call us at any time but we particularly recommend getting in touch if:

  • You think your labour has started and it is establishing into regular and powerful contractions occurring every 2–3 minutes
  • Your waters have released
  • You have any vaginal bleeding (bright/fresh red blood)
  • You are worried your baby is not moving as much as normal
  • You have any other concerns or anxieties

You can call your own midwife or you may prefer to call our team of midwives on the maternity advice line, which is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, on 0115 9709777

If you have complications:

We now have a new maternity Triage Service, where you can be seen within 15 minutes, depending on your clinical needs.  Since opening in April, over 90% of women have been seen within 15 minutes.  Information on our Triage Service is available here.


Labour and birth

Labour and birth landing image Where would you like to have your baby?

Having a baby is a momentous occasion in your life and you should carefully consider where you would feel most safe, relaxed and in control of your baby's birth. 

For people giving birth in Nottingham, there are three options of places to have your baby. These are:  

  • At home
  • The Sanctuary Birth Centre at the Queens Medical Centre or City Hospital (Sometimes referred to as an Alongside Midwifery Unit AMU)
  • The Labour Suite at the Queens Medical Centre or City Hospital (sometimes referred to as Obstetric Unit OU)

Although there are circumstances when birth on the Labour Suite is recommended, we aim to help you to decide where the best place is for you to give birth to your baby.

Your midwife can help you to make this decision and support you in your choices. Once you have decided, your midwife will place a sticker on the front of your notes indicating your choice, you can change your mind at any point of your pregnancy.

Being under consultant care at any point during your pregnancy does not automatically mean a labour suite birth is the recommended option. Please discuss this with your obstetric consultant or midwife.


What will happen when I arrive?

The Labour Suite is located opposite the Antenatal Clinic at both City Hospital and QMC. When you arrive, you will need to press the intercom button.

The midwife allocated to care for you will ask you some questions about how you are feeling and what was happening before you arrived. If you are in the latent phase of labour (early labour) we may recommend that you return home until your labour is more established.

If you prefer to stay in hospital, or if we advise you to stay, you will be offered a bed on the ward. 

What facilities are there in the rooms?

Facilities in the room image Each labour room has an ensuite or shared shower and toilet. The rooms are adapted for people with different abilities, have wider doorways, low sinks, extra grab rails, and level access to shower areas.

There is ambient lighting and CD players/iPod docks in the rooms to aid your relaxation. There are plenty of aids available to help you remain active during labour and birth, such as birthing balls, bean bags, birthing stools and heat packs, but you may wish to bring some additional items from home to use. We can provide tea and coffee, but we also recommend that your birthing partner brings some food or money to buy refreshments.

The beds are electronically operated and you can adjust them to your comfort, and to ease your labour.

Coping strategies during Labour and Birth

Pain relief options in Labour