Patients & Visitors


Labour and Birth

When to contact your Midwife or the hospital:

  • If you think your labour has started and you are having contractions every 10 minutes.
  • If your waters have broken.
  • If you have any fresh blood loss.
  • If you have any severe abdominal pain.
  • If your baby's movements slow down or stop.

If you have any concerns please feel free to ring your local maternity unit for advice. When you ring you will be asked for your personal details. You may be asked to come in – so please ask where to report.

In Labour

When you are admitted you will be cared for by a Midwife. The Midwife will assess your condition. Your partner/relative/close friend may stay with you. Please discuss your birth plan or any particular wishes you have regarding your labour with the midwife.

In your local unit you will need:

  • Maternity Records
  • Two packets of maternity size sanitary towels
  • Bath towels
  • Baby clothes including disposable nappies and cotton wool
  • Clothes and toiletries for yourself


There are three stages to labour:
  • The first stage, when your contractions make your cervix gradually open up (dilate). This is usually the longest stage.
  • The second stage of labour is when your cervix is fully open and you give birth. This is the part of labour where you help your baby move through your vagina by pushing with your contractions.
  • The third stage of labour is after the birth, when your womb contracts and causes the placenta to come out through the vagina.

Water birth

Labour in water has long been used as a method of pain relief.

Delivery underwater has increased in popularity in the last decade, and we have pools at all our Birth Centres and the delivery suite at the RUH.

What to do if you would like the pool

Discuss with your Midwife who will assess your suitability for a water birth.

What to bring

You may wear a loose T-shirt if you wish

Your local pool options

Birthing pools available at all units

Assisted Delivery

About one in eight women has an assisted birth, where forceps or a ventouse suction cup (ventouse) are used to help deliver the baby's head.

This can be because:

  • there are concerns about the baby's heart rate
  • your baby is in an awkward position
  • you're too exhausted

Both ventouse and forceps are safe and only used when necessary for you and your baby.

If the baby's head is in an awkward position, it will need turning (rotating) to allow the birth. A paediatrician may be present to check your baby's condition after the birth. A local anaesthetic is usually given to numb the vagina and perineum (the skin between the vagina and anus) if you haven't already had an epidural.

If your obstetrician has any concerns, you may be moved to an operating theatre so that a caesarean section can be carried out if needed, for example if the baby can't be easily delivered by forceps or ventouse. This is more likely if your baby's head needs turning.


A ventouse (vacuum extractor) is an instrument that is attached to the baby's head by suction. A soft or hard plastic or metal cup is attached by a tube to a suction device. The cup fits firmly onto your baby's head. During a contraction and with the help of your pushing, the obstetrician or midwife gently pulls to help deliver your baby.

If you decide to have your baby at the Princess Anne Wing, Bath or Chippenham, Frome, Paulton or Trowbridge Birth Centres you will have the option of a Midwife ventouse delivery. Our Midwife Ventouse Practitioners (MVPs) provide a service that formerly was only available from a Doctor. Their philosophy is that most women are able to give birth unaided, but that a few will occasionally need assistance. They offer a service which is speedy, safe and compassionate and have assisted hundreds of women giving birth.

Midwife Ventouse Practitioners are available to help if you are tiring at the end of labour, and/or if a baby's heart rate is giving cause for concern in labour. If your cervix is fully dilated, and the baby's head is almost visible, MVPs are able to apply a soft suction cup (the ventouse cup) to the baby's head, and gently pull as the mother pushes, to help deliver the baby.

If there are any factors that are not completely straightforward, e.g. if the baby's head is lying at an awkward angle, a MVP will not perform the delivery, but will refer the you to an Obstetrician.

The suction cup leaves a small swelling on your baby's head, called a chignon. This disappears quickly. The cup may also leave a bruise on your baby's head, called a cephalhaematoma. A ventouse is not used if you're giving birth at less than 34 weeks pregnant, because your baby's head is too soft. A ventouse is less likely to cause vaginal tearing than forceps.


Forceps are smooth metal instruments that look like large spoons or tongs. They're curved to fit around the baby's head. The forceps are carefully positioned around your baby's head and joined together at the handles. With a contraction and your pushing, an obstetrician gently pulls to help deliver your baby.

There are many different types of forceps. Some forceps are specifically designed to turn the baby to the right position to be born, for example, if your baby is lying facing upwards (occipito-posterior position) or to one side (occipito-lateral position).

Forceps can leave small marks on your baby's face but these will disappear quite quickly.

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