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Labour & birth

Giving birth is a natural process – most babies are born without medical interventions. Although it may be hard, trust yourself to labour. 

Preparing for birth

A key part of planning for your baby is deciding where you want to give birth. In British Columbia, women and their partners can choose to have their baby in a hospital or at home. For information on deciding where to give birth, talk to your health care provider.

Use this checklist to pack your bag for the hospital or prepare yourself for a home birth (check with your midwife).

Consider:

  • How you will get to the hospital

  • Who will take care of your children or pets when you are away

Hospitals

Within Vancouver Coastal Health region, there are seven hospitals where you can give birth. You can also choose to give birth at home with a registered midwife if your pregnancy is low-risk.

You can learn more about your local hospital to help you make your decision:

North Shore (North & West Vancouver) – Lions Gate Hospital

Powell River – Powell River Hospital

Richmond – Richmond Hospital is home to the  Richmond Maternity Service Birth Centre. Take the virtual tour in EnglishCantonese or Mandarin.

Sea to Sky – Squamish Hospital

Sunshine Coast – Sechelt Hospital (formerly St. Mary's Hospital)

Vancouver   

BC Women's Hospital – located in Vancouver. Take the virtual tour.

St. Paul's Hospital – located in downtown Vancouver. Take the virtual tour.

There are also a variety of supports available through  VCH maternity hospital programs.

It is important to understand your birth options and to feel confident in your choices. For low-risk women, whose baby is in the head-down position, a normal vaginal birth is the safest and best option. Other types of birth include:

If your baby is breech (in the bottom-down position), you will determine your options with your health care provider. Options include:

Vaginal birth

 You can increase your chances of a vaginal birth in the following ways:

  • Avoiding being induced unless there is a medical reason to do so.

  • Moving around as much as you like during your labour. You do not have to stay in a bed. You may feel like standing, walking, swaying back and forth, or kneeling on your hands and knees.

  • Receiving continuous one-on-one support throughout your labour. This may be provided by a supportive partner, family member or friend, or by a trained birthing coach or doula.

  • Avoiding interventions without a medical reason.

  • During birth, pushing in the position that feels best to you, especially in positions where gravity can help (e.g. kneeling, squatting).

If you've previously had a Cesarean section, you don't necessarily need to have another one. This is just one of several birthing misconceptions. For more information on vaginal birth after Cesarean section talk to your obstetrician or health care provider.

Cesarean section

If you're scheduled to have a Cesarean section – check out the information for your hospital

Giving birth

Preterm labour is when you have regular contractions and you are 20 to 37 weeks pregnant. Regular contractions are 4 or more in 20 minutes or about 8 or more in 1 hour. You may also be having preterm labour if you have:

  • Leaking or gushing of fluid from your vagina

  • Pain that feels like menstrual cramps

  • A feeling of pressure in your pelvis or lower belly, back ache, or are generally not feeling well

If you think you may be in labour, contact your health care provider. Then, go to the hospital to be checked. This can make a big difference to your baby's health.

Planning ahead will help you when your labour starts. Talk to your midwife or doctor about your plans for early labour and when they want you to contact them.

It's best to call your doctor or midwife if you suspect you are in the early stages of labour. You can tell you're in this stage when you are:

  • Having contractions that are regular and uncomfortable, usually 3-5 minutes apart and lasting 45-60 seconds

  • Leaking or your water breaks.

  • Having vaginal bleeding, or show (pink tinged vaginal mucus).

KEY: If your baby stops moving or moves less than usual, you're unsure or have concerns or if you've been advised to call for other reasons, call your health care provider immediately.

It can be hard to know if you are in labour or having pre-labour contractions. If you're still not sure if you are experiencing pre-labour or true labour, follow these tips:

  • If it's night time, try to sleep. You need to be well rested for childbirth. In true labour, you may not be able to sleep but will at least rest. If you fall asleep, it's most likely pre-labour.

  • Take a shower. The contractions in pre-labour will often become less frequent and shorter. In true labour, the contractions will continue no matter what you are doing and taking a shower can be comforting.

  • Distract yourself. Watch a movie, walk in the garden, play cards. If you are in true labour, the contractions will demand your attention. If it's pre-labour, you may be able to carry on with your usual routines.

Signs of early first stage labour include:

  • Irregular contractions

  • 'Show' (slightly pink vaginal mucous), or

  • Your water leaking or breaking

Try and rest as much as possible during early labour, eat a light meal, carry on with your regular activities. Here are some  tips for coping with early labour.

If you membranes rupture, and you are in very early labour. You will likely  return home to wait for labour to start.

Return to the hospital if:

  • Contractions become regular, stronger, increasing in intensity, duration and frequency

  • You feel ill, feel hot, or have chills

  • The amniotic fluid (water draining onto pad) becomes green or develops a bad smell

  • You have bright red bleeding like a menstrual period

  • You are uncomfortable staying at home.

Contact your health care provider if you have any concerns.

Active first stage of labour is when your contractions are stronger, and come every 3 to 5 minutes and last 45 to 60 seconds. You will want to contact your health care provider and let them know you are in labour. You may decide to go to the hospital now.

Pain is a natural part of labour and birth, and every woman's experience with labour is different. You may choose to cope with contractions through:

An Epidural is commonly used to reduce pain in labour and birth, once you are in active labour. There are risks and benefits to having an Epidural in labour that you should discuss with your health care provider.

Learn more about pain relief options for labour and birth.

Recovery

After giving birth, get as much rest as you can and give yourself time to heal. Don't be afraid to take the pain medication that was ordered or prescribed by your doctor or midwife. Learn more about recovery in our new parents & baby section.
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