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Labour and birth


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​When you are in labour you will have your own private room with an ensuite. Some rooms have baths for use during labour /or the birth. If you would like to have a room with a bath, please ask your birth unit midwife.

You are welcome to bring in homely touches such as photos, a pillow, LED candles or anything that will help you feel more comfortable and relaxed. Our rooms are equipped with birth balls, light dimmers, bean bags and mats to help you move into different comfortable positions.​

You can see the birth rooms on the virtual tour

Royal North Shore Maternity virtual tour


On this page:

Chevron​​Preparing for labour and birth
ChevronWhat to bring for your hospital stay 
ChevronWhen to contact the birth unit  
ChevronWhat to expect
ChevronPlanned birth
ChevronPain relief in labour
ChevronLabour and birth resources​​​

Preparing for labour and birth

The lead up to labour and birth can be exciting, but also a little nerve wracking. Just like any major life event it is a good idea to spend some time, with your birth support person, preparing. There are a range of resources and classes available that can help you, keeping in mind that labour can sometimes be unpredictable.​​

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  Mental preparation

​Some women become anxious as they are approaching their birth.  Many women find that usingPDF iconsimple relaxation and breathing techniques can be very helpful in reducing anxiety and staying calm.

 Emotional preparation

Having a baby can be an overwhelming experience. Surround yourself with positive stories and speak with your midwife or doctor about any worries or concerns you have.

 Physical preparation

​Every labour is different. You cannot predict what will happen on the day, however there are things that you can do that will help you be more prepared.  One way to help you and your support person is to attend a birth preparation course. There are a range of classes provided by your hospital or you may prefer to find a birth preparation course outside of your hospital.  

For information on booking into an antenatal class,External Linksee this page.​​

 Early stage

PDF icon​​​See here for more information about what to expect in early labour and when to come to hospital. ​PDF iconHow do I know if ​I am in labour and what can I do?​​​

​What to bring for your hospital stay

We would like you to feel as prepared as possible, and it will be comforting for you to know that your bag is packed with the essentials prior to going in to labour. Here is a guide of what to bring for your birth and postnatal stay.

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 ​For labour and birth

  • Your antenatal card
  • Gel pack (not wheat) for heat/cold 
  • Comfortable clothes for during labour/birth and for the days after birth while in hospital.
  • Stretchy dark underwear, or disposable underwear
  • Maternity sanitary pads (at least two to three packets)
  • Toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothbrush, hairbrush etc)
  • Drink bottle 
  • Snacks/refreshments for you and your partner
  • Slip on shoes
  • Clips or hair ties for long hair
  • Any prescribed daily medications
  • Any frozen expressed breast milk 
  • Ear Pods or headphones 
  • Phone charger or camera 
Optional for labour
  • TENS machine
  • Recreational activities such as cards
  • Sarong /rebozo
  • Your own pillow 
  • Your own cup 
  • A bluetooth speaker
  • Ear phones/pods

 For your stay in maternity ward

  • ​Maternity bras/tops
  • Comfortable clothes  
  • 1 x pack of disposable nappies (newborn size, approximately 12 nappies) 
  • Clothing for your baby to wear home. ​

During your hospital stay all linen including towels, sheets, blankets and baby clothes are provided. 

Meals are provided for women however, some women like to pack extra snacks.

​When to contact the birth unit

During pregnancy, it is common for women to experience symptoms that are concerning for them. Many of these concerns can be discussed at your pregnancy appointments however, some may need to be addressed with your health care provider as soon as possible.  

If you experience any of the below symptoms, please call our midwives on the numbers below and they will discuss the matter with you over the phone, and where necessary provide advice or recommend you to come in to the hospital for a review.


  • External LinkConcerns regarding your baby’s movements 
  • If you have any vaginal fluid that you are not sure of ( this may be your waters breaking)
  • If you feeling unwell or are concerned about your baby’s health
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Contractions
  • Headaches that persist 
  • Abdominal pain or pain that persists
  • If you are concerned or anxious

If you are in labour and coming in to the birth unit, we also ask that you please call the hospital first and speak to the midwives, as this this helps plan for when you arrive. If you cannot get through on the phone, just make your way into the birth unit

RNSH Birth Unit contact: 9463 2100
HKH Birth Unit contact: 9485 6690

What to expect

Many women find it is helpful to know what to expect when preparing for birth. It may help reduce anxiety around birth. Bring your questions at your pregnancy visits please ask your doctor or midwife any questions you may have.​

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 Birth before 37 weeks (premature labour)

​A small number of women have their baby before 37 weeks. If you are less than 37 weeks pregnant and are experiencing contractions or your waters break, please call the birth unit.

To contact RNSH Birth Unit please call: 9463 2100
To contact HKH Birth Unit please call: 9485 6690

 Early labour

​At the beginning of labour, it is important to keep hydrated and drink small amounts frequently. If you are tired, rest. If you feel more comfortable moving around, do what feels good for you.

Many women find it more comfortable staying at home in early labour as this stage of labour may go for some time (4 – 24 hours). Every woman has a different labour journey and being informed of theExternal Linkstages of labour and birth processes can be very helpful. Find out more information onPDF icon​​what to expect, options during labour and strategies that support the likelihood of vaginal birthExternal Linkhere.

 Water immersion

​Water immersion during labour and birth is an additional option for comfort and mobility. For more information on birthing on water birth, read the attached and speak to your doctor or midwife. PDF icon Use of water immersion during labour and birth information 

 Vaginal birth after caesarean

​Most women who have had a caesarean section are able to have a vaginal birth for their next birth. This is called a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean section). It is best to talk to your midwife or doctor about your individual circumstances when deciding whether to opt for a caesarean or a VBAC. You will find more detailed informationPDF icon​​here.

 Assisted vaginal birth (forceps or vacuum)

External LinkAn assisted birth with vacuum or forceps is only attended if it is deemed necessary for the health of the mother or baby and always performed by a doctor trained in obstetrics. The most common reason for this procedure is an abnormal change in the baby’s heart rate. More information on assisted births can be foundExternal Link​​​here.​

Planned birth​

If your pregnancy is healthy and progressing without any issues, the optimal time for baby to born is as close to 40 weeks as possible. For more information about timing of birth please see External Linkevery week counts. If there are health complications, the timing of birth should be guided by your healthcare professional, with the pregnancy continuing as long as it is safe for mother and baby.

A planned birth is any birth that is booked prior to the onset of spontaneous labour. This is either an elective caesarean section or an induction of labour. This may be recommended for several reasons and each woman will be given the opportunity to speak with their midwife or doctor beforehand to ask questions, consider any benefits or risks and make a decision that is best for them and their baby.​​

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 Induction of labour

​An induction of labour is a labour that is started using artificial methods. This may involve having your waters broken or having medication that will encourage the birth process to start.

When your doctor or midwife recommends an induction they will explain

  • why it is a good idea for you to be induced
  • any possible risks to you or your baby if you chose an induction
  • any possible risks to you or your baby if you choose to wait for labour to start naturally and
  • how they plan to induce your baby

Please ask any questions you need to help you make the right decision for you and your family

See PDF icon​​​ here for more information on the different methods used to induce labour.

 Caesarean section

​A caesarean section is an operation that is performed in an operating theatre. A caesarean section may be planned during pregnancy, known as an elective caesarean, or at short notice if complications develop with the mother or baby known as unplanned or an emergency caesarean.

See the educational video about caesarean sections below.

Anaesthetics most commonly used for caesarean operations are epidural or spinal. You will find more informationExternal Linkhere.

After surgery you are at an increased risk of a pressure injury, so it is important you are familiar with External LinkPressure injury prevention​.



​Pain relief in labour

Some women manage pain in labour and others want or need pain relief. There are many options for pain relief.

Natural methods include:
  • movement and adopting comfortable positions
  • bath and or shower
  • massage
  • breathing and or relaxation techniques
  • vocalisation
  • visualisation
  • heat packs
  • PDF icon​​​Sterile water injections​
  • External LinkTENS machine ( you will need to outsource a TENS machine)

Medical management includes

Labour and birth resources

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