Labour - our questions answered!

How would you know you're in labour?
02 April 2019

Interview with 

Alberto Rodriguez-Cala, The Rosie Hospital; Andrea


this is a picture of a new born baby gripping an adult's hand


Now we couldn’t do a show about having babies without hearing from someone who’s just had one themselves! Katie Haylor went to the Rosie maternity hospital in Cambridge. Her first port of call was midwife Alberto Rodriguez-Cala...

Alberto - I am the matron for the delivery, and the triage clinic, the high-risk recovery area and bereavement services. We are currently in the triage clinic of the Rosie maternity Hospital in Cambridge.

Katie - It sounds pretty quiet for a maternity hospital. Is this normal?

Alberto - This is not massively normal. It's good and always we try and keep the noise level to a minimum. This time in the morning it starts getting busy from now really.

Katie - So before you shoot off to deliver some babies, can ask you a few questions about labour? How does someone know if they’ve gone into labour?

Alberto - So generally speaking because they're experiencing painful contractions. Sometimes the breaking of the water without an awful lot of associated pain might be suggestive of women going into labour as well, but generally speaking experiencing contractions that are regular and sustained over a period of time is a most clinically recognised relevant sign of someone being in labour.

Katie - How long does it tend to last?

Alberto - Very variable. In general we’ll say that for a first-time mother labour will last, on average, about eight hours and unlikely to last more than 16/18 hours. For mothers that have given birth before it will be an average of 5/6 hours, unlikely to last more than 10/12 hours. But it is very variable depending on many different factors.

Katie - Are there any things that women can do to help themselves have the best labour possible? I'm thinking in terms of physical fitness, would that make a difference?

Alberto - Physical fitness as such does not equate to having an easier labour. However, being physically fit means that you're less likely to have and develop complications during pregnancy such as high blood pressure, diabetes or suffering with obesity or anything like that is likely to potentially impact on the care that you received during your pregnancy and in labour. But, in general, being physically fit means that you'll probably be able to be much more active, being able to be fitter for pregnancy itself hence minimising the risk of complications.

Katie - I guess it's important to acknowledge that we're here in a maternity hospital and lots of women give birth in hospital but some women don't.

Alberto - That's right. So for us in the Rosie it's about 1% of women will give birth at home. Sometimes it's planned and sometimes it’s unplanned because babies come whenever they want to come really. But we are a service that provides adequate care for women providing they've been informed about the different options that they've got and where to give birth.

Katie - A question we've had is about pain. Is it possible to have a pain free labour?

Alberto - I guess that's very individual question. I'm hoping it's not a tricky question for a man. Pain is a very subjective concept. In general we’ll say that pain is a common feeling women will experience through labour. Different women will have different ways and different coping mechanisms, different pain thresholds, but I will say in general having a pain-free labour is something that unless someone's a genetic mutation got where pain pathways are blocked, it's something that women will normally experience. But the pain concept in childbirth is very different to in other fields in healthcare because it's got a good outcome and something that's really exciting associated to it, so some women will experience birth with no pain relief but it’s still being a very pleasant experience despite being painful.

Katie - So a side pain being a subjective experience, are there aspects of labour or intervention that are pretty guaranteed to make things more or less painful?

Alberto - So there are certain things that definitely will make labour be perceived as more painful; induction of labour or any other medical intervention that might be clinically required. Those two things are likely to affect the length of labour and because it's an artificial form of labour being induced it might potentially, again, affect the way women perceive pain, making it feel as if it's more painful. We're currently in the Rosie birth centre now.

Katie - Is this birthing pool?

Alberto - That is birthing pool.

Katie - It looks like a jacuzzi -  I'm guessing it's not. Does it have bubbles?

Alberto - It doesn't have bubbles no.

Katie - So after someone has had a baby, hopefully they're healthy and the baby is healthy, what about recovery?

Alberto - Recovery from labour is very varied, depending on the circumstances and depending particularly on the type of birth a woman’s had. In general, about a week to 2 weeks for someone that's had a normal birth, a woman having had an instrumental or particularly a cesarean section involving significant abdominal surgery it might take longer.  But in general we’ll say that the woman's body tends to go back to prepregnancy state in about six weeks so the total recovery can last as long as that but depending on how little intervention or more intervention woman has had, then the recovery might take longer.

Andrea - I'm Andrea and I'm the Rosie birthing centre.

Katie - Congratulations. I see you've just had a little baby?

Andrea - Yeah, he's Barnabas.

Katie - First of all, how are you feeling?

Andrea - Actually surprisingly good. I think that somehow women are designed to do quite well after childbirth. The other halves don't tend to look so good on so little sleep actually. He's doing better this time but I remember him looking particularly grim after another baby being born when I didn't look bad.

Katie - How was the labour?

Andrea - Obviously it was labour so it wasn't very nice in the grand scheme of things and it was as tough as it had to be, and yet lots of things came together and we felt really blessed and then it went really well.

Katie - So I understand you’re off home in a minute and hopefully going to have some rest and enjoy yourself and relax as much as is possible with a newborn.

Andrea - Yeah, I'm going to try to. I think the adrenaline is still going so still feeling rather awake. So I imagine I'll crash in the next few days but enjoy what I’ve heard other people call the babymoon, so I'll enjoy that for a few days.

Katie - Have you had any sleep, or your partner?

Andrea - He was snoring away, as was my little one. I managed about an hour and a half. Again, I think the adrenaline pumping, very proud to have a new baby.

Katie - I'm going to let you go and get some sleep.

Andrea - Okay. Thank you.


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