Who Will Help Me During Labour?
Clinical Care in Labour
Patients whose antenatal providers are obstetricians or family doctors will be assigned a nurse. Several nurses may assist you over the course of your labour. Midwifery patients will not have an assigned nurse, but will have a primary and back-up midwife attend them in labour.
The healthcare team is there to provide you with professional labour support, and to help ensure you and your baby are healthy and safe.
Here are some ways nurses and midwives will support you:
- Review your medical history with you, and your birth plan, if you have one.
- Provide you with information to meet you and your partner’s needs.
- Help you to relax, and to find comfortable positions.
- Provide you with one-on-one support to help with pain, before and during the birth of your baby.
- Examine you and keep you up to date on your labour progress.
- Monitor your baby’s heart rate, as well as your blood pressure, temperature and pulse.
Role of your Support Person
Your support person can be anyone you choose. Together you will work with your healthcare team during your labour and birth.
Your support person can:
- Help you find a comfortable position.
- Get you ice or water.
- Help with your breathing and other relaxation techniques.
- Rub or massage your back.
- Reassure and encourage you.
How Can I Manage Pain During Labour?
There are many ways to relax and find comfort during labour. Practice these methods before you go into labour so that you and your support person will be prepared. People will often use multiple techniques throughout their labour to help manage pain.
Your healthcare team can help you decide which pain relief options may work best for you.
Methods of Relieving Pain
Relaxation Techniques and Comfort Measures
Walking and Changing positions
Moving about and changing your body position may help control pain and speed up labour. Research has shown that pregnant persons who are upright in the first stage of labour have less pain and do not need as many pain medications or epidurals. You can try:
- walking or standing
- sitting or squatting
- kneeling on your hands and knees
- using your birthing ball
Hot and Cold Compresses
Heat - The stress of labour can cause muscles to become tight. Heat may help relieve pain by helping you relax and feel less stress.
Example: Warm blanket or compress
Cold - Cold can help lessen back pain from labour by numbing the pain.
Example: Cold compress, ice pack, wet towel.
The feeling of water on your body can help by relaxing you and relieving pain and pressure.
Example: Shower, tub.
Touch and Massage
Touch and massage is another way to help lower stress. Lowering stress helps your labour progress and helps you cope with discomfort.
Thinking about something else can distract you from thinking about labour pain. You can try:
- different breathing techniques
- thinking about something calming
- concentrating on a picture or object that is meaningful to you
- listening to music
A combination of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and oxygen can be given through a mask to provide pain relief during labour and delivery. Nitrous oxide assists in reducing pain but it does not eliminate pain.
Pain Relief Medication
Speak to your care provider about other medication options that you can have for pain relief.
All pregnant persons experience a certain amount of pain during labour and birth. Epidurals are the most commonly used form of medical pain management during labour.
An epidural is a safe and effective way to control labour pain. With this technique, pain is relieved by numbing the nerves that carry the pain sensation from the uterus to the spinal cord.
An anaesthesiologist will insert a small flexible plastic tube called an epidural catheter into your lower back. The tip of this tube will lie next to, the spinal column. Once inserted, tape is carefully applied to keep the epidural catheter in place. The anaesthesiologist will inject numbing medications (local anaesthetics) through the epidural catheter, providing a gradual onset of pain relief over 15-20 minutes. After this, a special pump continues to provide medication through the catheter to help control pain for the remainder of labour.
After having an epidural inserted, you should feel considerable contraction pain relief from your contractions. Your legs will feel heavy and hard to move. This is normal.
Although the medicine reduces pain, you will still feel the pressure of the contractions. This will help guide you when it is time to push the baby out.
Many people worry that an epidural causes back pain, but this is rare, although you might have some soreness or bruising at the injection site for several days after the birth. Pregnancy and childbirth may cause backache due to changes in posture, the heaviness of the baby and the stretching of your muscles. As such, back pain can occur both with and without epidural usage. This pain usually goes away on its own.
Speak to your healthcare team if you have any questions or concerns about getting an epidural. Together, you can decide if/when an epidural would be appropriate to help manage your labour pain.
Some pregnant persons will know ahead of time that they are having a caesarean section (c-section). A c-section may be planned if:
- Your baby is coming bottom or feet first (called breech position)
- The placenta is covering the opening of the cervix (called placenta previa)
- You have had a c-section before, and have decided to have another one.
If you are scheduled for a c-section, you will receive a package from your care provider detailing additional information related to your surgery. This is called “Caesarean Birth Pre-Operative Same Day Admission.”
* Please read this information carefully. If you are not prepared for your scheduled cesarean section, this may cause a delay in your surgery.
Not all caesarean section births are planned ahead of time. A c-section may be required during labour. In some situations, this decision may need to be made quickly.
Before the caesarean section birth, your health care team will talk to you about:
- Why a caesarean birth is needed
- The benefits and risks of surgery
- The anaesthesia plan
- What to expect before, during and after surgery.
Your partner or support person can stay with you during your surgery to support you, but cannot enter the operating room until everything is set up, and the surgery is about to begin. In an emergency, or during a rare occasion when you need to be put to sleep, your partner or support person may not be able to stay with you. The staff will keep them informed.
You can take pictures of your baby once the staff provide permission. Taking pictures or filming during surgery is not permitted.
After the surgery, you will be brought to a recovery area until your condition is stable. Once you are stable you will be transferred to the Mother Baby/Obstetrics Unit.