What is a labour ward like?
You will have your own room to labour in, which will contain medical equipment, and epidurals are available for pain relief. Some labour wards also have “home-from-home” rooms for women at low risk of complications. These rooms are designed to make you feel more like you are at home. Many labour rooms have birthing equipment such as birth balls or mats available, and some have a separate midwife-led unit, also known as an alongside birth centre.
There will be an operating theatre nearby in case you need a caesarean birth, and often there’s a neonatal unit in case your baby needs extra help.
Rossella, Beki and Reena share their experiences of giving birth in a labour ward, in the video below.
Who will look after me during labour?
You’ll be looked after by midwives but, if problems develop during labour, doctors called obstetricians are available to provide care. Special baby doctors (neonatologists) are also on hand to look after your baby if needed.
Will I get to know my midwives?
You’re unlikely to know the midwives who look after you during labour, but this will vary between different maternity units in different hospitals.
Some maternity units offer team midwifery, where you receive your care from a team of midwives whom you get to know throughout your pregnancy, or caseloading, where a single midwife (or a pair of midwives) has full responsibility for your care throughout pregnancy, labour and after your baby is born. Both options give you continuity of care, allowing you to get to know your midwives before the birth. You can ask about the availability of this option if you’re interested in this type of care.
Find out more about the benefits of getting to know your midwife.
Safety and interventions
If you’re at increased risk of complications you’re likely to be recommended to give birth in a labour ward, where doctors and medical equipment will be to hand.
Women at low risk of complications are more likely to need medical help such as a caesarean if they plan to give birth in a labour ward compared to other birth environments, such as at home or a birth centre. Therefore, if you’re having a straightforward pregnancy and keen to avoid medical interventions, it would be worth considering a birth centre. It is just as safe for your baby as planning to give birth in a labour ward.