Labour & birth

mum and baby
Every birth is special.

We believe that every birth is special, and that your labour and the birth of your baby will be a very personal and special time for you. 

You should have already discussed your birth plan and pain relief options with your doctor or midwife, and the ‘Having your baby at the Women’s’ book should provide you with nearly all the information you need.

There are a variety of fact sheets available that might be useful, and our health information section contains all the information in the ‘Having your baby at the Women’s’ book.

Please feel free to keep asking your doctor or midwife any questions you wish throughout your labour and birth. Our staff are there to help and guide you.

Preparing for labour

Normal labour is painful, but many women find that there are techniques to help them to cope with the pain of labour and reduce the use of drugs for pain relief. Having encouraging and supportive people caring for you is also very important.

Being active through your labour and birth can help you to manage and to take control. Some techniques for managing pain have been well researched while others have been adopted by women and cultures through generations. They may not be proven ways to manage pain but women find them very effective. We encourage you to try methods that suit you. Read more on active birth.

Advice for women in early labour

A doctor or midwife at the Women’s has examined you and decided that you are in the early stages of labour. Sometimes this is called the latent phase of labour. Or you may have been told that your labour is not yet fully established.

Research tells us that the best place to spend this phase of labour is at home.

At home, you have the freedom of your own surroundings. You can eat, sleep and move around at your own pace. Listen to your body and do what you instinctively feel is right for you. Remember that your experience is uniquely yours.

When to return to hospital

You should return to the hospital if:

  • your waters break
  • you have vaginal bleeding that is not mixed with mucous. Vaginal bleeding with lots of mucous is called a ‘show’ and is a sign that labour is progressing normally. You can also get a ‘show’ if you have had a vaginal examination during your admission.
  • the contractions are regular, last more than 30 seconds and are closer than 5 minutes apart
  • you are frightened or unsure about what is happening
  • you need pain relief
  • you do not feel your baby moving

Remember, you can phone the hospital at any time if you have questions or concerns. It is not unusual for some women to have more than one admission before labour is fully established, especially if this is your first baby.

What to pack in your hospital bag

Some items that people find useful for bringing to hospital are listed below.

You can download or print this hospital bag list as a helpful checklist here.

Birth parent

During labour

  • Comfortable clothing, for example, an oversized t-shirt, warm socks, comfortable underwear or whatever you prefer 
  • Your own pillow (labelled with your name) if you prefer
  • A drink bottle (one with a straw is useful during labour)
  • Snacks – for example, barley sugar, jellybeans, muesli bars, sports/hydrating drinks, etc. 
  • Lip balm
  • Your favourite music (speakers are available)
  • Your favourite essential oil (oil diffusers are available)
  • Hair ties, clips or a headband to keep hair out of your face

After labour

  • Thongs or slippers, and perhaps non-slip socks (footwear must be worn at all times)
  • Nursing bras or a wire-free bra or support top (like those used for exercising)
  • Underpants – waist-high, full brief (rather than bikinis) and lots of them!
  • Nursing/breast pads
  • Maternity pads (3 packets)
  • Nightwear – a nightie or night shirt, rather than pyjamas, and a dressing gown
  • Prescription and non-prescription medications, if needed (please let your care team know)
  • Toiletries – body wash, shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush etc.
  • Camera
  • Phone charger (extra-long cord is useful)
  • A keepsake or notebook to write down some first thoughts and memories

It’s best to pack for more days than anticipated. Please leave jewellery, credit cards and other valuables at home – and please do not bring large amounts of cash to the hospital.

Birth partner or support person

The birth partner or support person may wish to bring:

  • Snacks and drinks
  • A change of clothes
  • Personal toiletries, including soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush etc.
  • A travel pillow or bed pillow in case you have time for a nap or overnight stay
  • Headphones
  • Phone charger

For baby

  • Cotton balls and disposable wipes (non-fragranced)
  • Muslin wraps – for bathing and taking baby home
  • Baby clothes – singlets and long-sleeved onesies are best
  • Newborn nappies (packet of 32)
  • A baby blanket/shawl for going home An infant car restraint (for day of discharge)
  • Feeding formula – only if you plan to use milk replacement formula* to feed your baby

* The Women’s is an accredited Baby Friendly Health Initiative Hospital. This WHO/UNICEF accreditation is associated with the ‘Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding’, a guide for healthcare providers to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Staff at the Women’s will discuss feeding your baby with you and recognise your right to make an informed choice about your baby’s feeding and will support you in that decision.

You can print this checklist here.

After the birth

The length of stay after the birth of your baby will depend on the wellbeing of you and your baby. If you have an uncomplicated vaginal birth and you and your baby are well, you may go home the day after the birth or from six hours after the birth. If you have a more complex birth you will require a longer stay in hospital. Women who have had a caesarean birth may stay up to 72 hours.

All new mothers will be supported with midwives from the Women's visiting you in your home. 

A Breastfeeding Support Service is available to mothers and babies between the ages of newborn to three months who are having feeding difficulties. Find out more about breastfeeding support.


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