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What happens at the hospital

Hospitals and maternity units can be confusing places at the best of times. They're all different, so this is just a guide to the kind of things you can expect.

When you arrive

Find the admissions desk and let them know you've arrived. If you've got your maternity notes, hand them in. You'll be taken to the labour ward, where she'll get changed into a gown or nightdress.

What happens first?

The midwife will need to find out what's been happening so far and to make sure nothing is wrong. The midwife will:

    • Check her pulse, temperature, blood pressure and urine.
    • Feel her abdomen to find out the baby's position.
    • Listen to the baby's heart.
    • Do an internal examination to find out how much her cervix has opened - this is a pretty accurate way to find out how far the labour has gone.
    • The midwife will repeat these checks right through the labour, so she always knows what's going on.
    • If you have a birth plan, now's the time to show the midwife.
    • If you don't understand anything that's happening, ask the midwife - especially if either of you is worried. Worrying isn't going to help a smooth birth.

    The delivery room

    Some hospitals have delivery units decorated more like a room at home than a hospital ward, with different places to sit - easy chairs and maybe beanbags - to give mums space to move around and change position during labour.

    Bath and shower

    The hospital might have a bath or a shower. Lots of women find that relaxing in a warm bath is a good way to spend much of their labour as it eases pain and discomfort.

    Birthing pools

    Many women want to give birth in water - it can help with relaxation and in some cases reduces the need for pain relief. If you've decided that this is what you want, talk to your midwife about whether it's going to be possible in your case. Even if it isn't, it might be possible for her to spend some of her labour in a birthing pool before the big moment comes.

    Take it easy

    She'll be in the first stage of labour for a while - it could be as much as 12 hours. So there's no need to panic and not much to do except chill and relax as much as possible. It's the calm before the storm!

    Check out the labour guide for a full run-down of what happens during this time and during the birth itself.

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