Giving Birth

baby and doctor

Deciding where to have your baby is an important decision for you and your partner. We believe that you should give birth in an environment where you feel relaxed, comfortable and in control.

Here at The Royal Surrey County Hospital we have different options available to meet your individual needs. Our highly skilled team will help you decide between our midwifery-led Birth Suite, Delivery Suite or even a Home birth, and can also advise on pain relief.

What to do when you're in labour

When the time comes, you are unlikely to mistake the signs of labour. If you are in any doubt, please contact the Maternity Department who will be able to advise you.

Strong, regular contractions and a ‘show’ (when the plug of mucus from your cervix comes away) are the main signs that labour is starting.

Your water breaking, backache and an urge to go to the toilet, which is caused by your baby’s head pressing on your bowel, are other signs to look out for.

If you think that you are in labour call the 24 hour pregnancy advice line 03001 235 473 to speak to a midwife. Please contact us before coming in, so that we can ensure a room is ready for your arrival.

If you are not in labour but are worried or want advice, please call the 24 hour pregnancy advice line 03001 235 473 and a midwife will be able to advise you over the phone.

While in labour, different women experience labour pains in different ways. Often, your first labour will be the longest. 90% of women use a range of pain relief techniques to cope with labour pain, however please be aware that if medication is used to induce labour or speed up your labour, your contractions may be more painful. 

To prepare for labour we offer a range of education classes, run by our midwives. The classes will help you understand what will happen in labour and may help you to feel less anxious.

Whether you attend our classes or not, you can always ask your midwife about the support on offer, such as what is available to reduce labour pain. 

If you need more information about epidurals (an injection into your back to numb the lower half of your body), the midwife can arrange for you to meet an anaesthetist at our Anaesthetic Clinic to discuss various aspects of this procedure.

If you are planning to give birth in our hospital, it may be helpful to look round before hand. Many of our antenatal classes offer a tour as part of the class, and if you are between 16 – 28 weeks pregnant we invite you to attend our ‘Your Pregnancy Matters’ event. 


The five R's

During labour we suggest you follow the five R's:

  • At the beginning of labour Rest and Relax
  • Rehydrate regularly to support your bodies ability to labour
  • Reposition yourself regularly to keep yourself comfortable
  • Seek Reassurance from us and your birth partners/support.

As your labour develops and your contractions become stronger, longer and more regular:

  • Walk and move around if you feel like it
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Eat little and often, even if you don’t feel hungry
  • Use your breathing excercises as your contractions get stronger and more regular
  • Having your birth partner rub or give you a light stroking massage over your back can help with contractions and be very reassuring.


When contractions start this is your womb tightening and relaxing. You may have experienced painless tightening, particularly at the later stages of your pregnancy, known as Braxton Hicks.

When you experience regular, painful contractions that feel stronger and last more than 30 seconds, your labour may have started. These contractions will continue to become longer, stronger, and more frequent as things progress.

The contractions are pushing your baby down and opening your cervix ready for the baby to pass through into the birth canal.

Your midwife will advise you to stay at home until your contractions become regular and more frequent. Call us for guidance when they last between 30 and 60 seconds and are occuring regualrly every five minutes on the 24 hour pregnancy advice line 03001 235 473.

If at any stage you feel you need more support, pain relief and reassurance, please call us and we will invite you to come in for assessment. However, if your labour is still in the early stages and you are coping, it will be recommended that you return home until labour becomes more established.

The 'show'

While you are pregnant, a plug of mucus is present in your cervix. Just before labour starts, or in early labour, the plug comes away and you may pass this. This small amount of sticky, jelly-like (sometimes pink or bloodstained) mucus is called a 'show'.

The 'show' can come away in one piece, or in several smaller sections. It is normal to lose a small amount of blood mixed with mucus and as a result it is pink in colour. If you are losing more blood that is bright red and fresh, it may be a sign that something is wong, so telephone the hospital straight away.

After you have experienced the 'show', labour could come quickly, or it may still take a few days.

Some women do not experience the 'show' at all.

Waters breaking

Most women’s waters break during labour, but it can also happen before labour starts.

Your unborn baby develops and grows inside a bag of fluid called the amniotic sac. When it’s time for your baby to be born, the sac breaks and the amniotic fluid drains out through your vagina. This is your waters breaking.

You may feel a slow trickle, or a sudden gush of water that you cannot control. To prepare for this, you could keep a sanitary towel (but not a tampon) handy if you are going out and put a protective sheet on your bed or car seat.

Amniotic fluid is clear and a pale straw colour. It also may be a little blood-stained to begin with.

If you think your waters have broken or are not sure, please call the 24 hour pregnancy advice line 03001 235 473.

What to bring with you

There is very little space to store items on the ward, so it is easier to bring the minimum and have things taken home and brought in as required.

For information on our maternity wards, please click here

  • Any medication you require (please make sure you give this to the midwife when she admits you)
  • Toiletries
  • Maternity notes
  • Bath towel (we will provide a towel for you after labour)
  • Large t-shirt or old nightie for labour
  • Cotton wool for cleaning your baby's bottom
  • Dressing gown
  • Nursing bra
  • Slippers/flip flops
  • Breast pads if intending to breast feed
  • Nightwear
  • Daywear
  • Maternity sanitary pads (not provided)
  • Formula in disposable ready made cartons if intending to bottle feed. We will provide sterile bottles and teats
  • Underwear
  • Babygros, vests, hat, cardigan, scratch mitts
  • £1 coins for phone/TV card
  • Disposable nappies (not provided)
  • Camera/film
  • CDs
  • Reading material
  • Pen
  • Phone charger
  • Snacks for labour for you and your partner.

What to expect when you arrive

The midwife will ask you about what has been happening so far and will examine you. If you are having a home birth, this examination will take place at home. The midwife will:

  • Take your pulse, temperature and blood pressure, and check your urine
  • Feel your abdomen to check the baby’s position and record or listen to your baby’s heart
  • Possibly do an internal examination to find out how much your cervix has opened, so they can then tell how far your labour has progressed.

These checks will be repeated at intervals throughout your labour. Always ask about anything you want to know. If you and your partner have made a birth plan, show your midwife so they know what kind of labour you want and can help you to achieve it.

What if you need an operation?

If you need an operation such as a caesarean section, you would not usually need a general anaesthetic. If you already have a good working epidural in place then this can be topped up with a much stronger local anaesthetic. If you do not already have an epidural, a spinal anaesthetic will often be used. A spinal is similar to an epidural in terms of insertion and effects, but it works much quicker. If an epidural or spinal method did not work or there was an immediate threat to your’s or your baby’s life, we will give you a general anaesthetic.

Occasionally, babies can be in awkward positions and the doctor may not be certain they can help you deliver vaginally with either forceps (an instrument shaped like a pair of large spoons or salad tongs is applied to the baby's head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal) or ventouse (assisted delivery of a baby using a vacuum device).. In this case, you would go to theatre and have your epidural topped up or a spinal epidural given before the doctor tries to help you deliver. If this was then unsuccessful you would be in the right place, with the right painrelief to proceed immediately to caesarean section.

However you birth your baby, our aim is that you are cared for by a midwife throughout your labour and birth and feel safe and informed throughout. Please always ask questions of your midwives and doctors if you are concerned or need more information to make a fully informed choice.