There’s so much to consider when you are thinking about where and how you want to give birth. Of course, things can and do change leading up to the birth or during labour, but if your plan is to have a vaginal birth, here are a few ideas that might help labour progress smoothly and positively for you.
Think about where you want to give birth
If you’re planning to give birth vaginally, have a think about where you might want to be for the birth. You could stay at home, be in a midwife-led birth centre or in a hospital (NICE, 2014). Your needs, any complicating factors in your pregnancy and where you live may all form part of your decision.
Each location has its own advantages and disadvantages so, wherever you decide to give birth, think about what will help you to feel relaxed, supported and comfortable. For some this may be a few home comforts or music and for others it might mean being close to doctors or a neonatal unit.
You could talk through your options of where to give birth with your midwife (or obstetrician if you see one) so you can make the decision that’s right for you.
Think about the people around you
Research shows that continuous presence from a supportive partner during labour is beneficial as it encourages a more straightforward birth experience (Hodnett et al, 2011). Your partner or the father of your baby might be the obvious choice for some of you, or you might choose a close friend, family member or someone who is experienced in supporting people through birth, such as a doula.
Most importantly, you want to feel comfortable and able to express yourself without inhibitions in front of whoever is with you.
Relax and prepare your mind
Your mind plays a major part in how your labour progresses. Feeling relaxed and calm can increase production of important hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins that cause the uterus to contract strongly and regularly, and help you work with any pain or discomfort you feel during labour and birth.
Breathing can be a simple, yet powerful technique for this. Antenatal courses, pregnancy yoga classes or hypnobirthing classes, are a helpful way of learning about ways to prepare for giving birth. You might also think about talking to your partner, family, friends or midwife about any concerns you have.
Plan to stay at home (as long as possible)
If you’ve planned to give birth in hospital, unless there is a medical reason for going straight there when labour starts, you will probably be encouraged by your midwife to stay at home and carry on with normal activities for as long as possible. This can be a helpful distraction.
You might want to go for a walk, have a bath, doze in between contractions – anything that will help you go through the early part of labour feeling as calm as possible. As labour strengthens you may want to adopt strategies which support the production of labour hormones by the ‘primitive’ part of your brain.
These can be stimulated by being in a quiet darkened room, where you feel safe and where your privacy is protected (Buckley, 2015). The hospital or your midwife will be able to offer guidance on when you should transfer to hospital.
Experiment with birth positions
Experiment with birth positions you find comfortable. These could include:
- squatting (either independently or using a hammock, rope or bar to dangle from)
- using a birthing stool
- resting on a birthing ball
You could also try lying on your side as this is comfortable for some women, too. Some birthing centres and labour wards have peanut-shaped birthing balls for women to use if they feel like lying down during labour and if they don’t, a couple of pillows does the same job.
Women often find in labour they just want to get into different positions regularly. There is no ‘wrong’ position so you can experiment with whatever feels comfortable, and if it’s difficult to move, you could ask your birth partner or midwife for help.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
This page was last reviewed in September 2022.
Buckley, S.J. (2015). Hormonal physiology of childbearing: Evidence and implications for women, babies, and maternity care. Available from: https://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/health-care/mate… [Accessed 22 Mar 22]
Hodnett, E.D., Gates, S., Hofmeyr, G.J. & Sakala, C. (2011). Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (7):CD003766. https://doi.org10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub5
NICE (2014) Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies [CG190], Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190 [Accessed 5 Sep 22].