logo
Parent education at Bradford

This section is all about ‘when nature needs a hand’ – when interventions may be needed in your labour and birth. Have a look at the links below for some useful information.

We offer virtual antenatal classes that cover all the topics below and more..

midwife
Caroline Lamb, Midwife
midwife
Gina Melia, Midwife

Assisted birth

An assisted vaginal birth is where a doctor or midwife uses specially designed instruments to help deliver the baby during the last part of labour.

Why might I need help with the birth of my baby? There are several reasons. The main reasons are:

  • your baby is not moving out of the birth canal as would normally be expected
  • there are concerns about your baby’s wellbeing during birth
  • you are unable to, or have been advised not to, push during birth

The purpose of an assisted vaginal birth is to mimic a normal (spontaneous) birth with minimum risk to you and your baby. To do this, an obstetrician or midwife uses instruments (ventouse or forceps) to help your baby to be born.

Caesarean section

A caesarean section, or C-section, is an operation to deliver your baby through a cut made in your tummy and womb.

The cut is usually made across your tummy, just below your bikini line. A caesarean is a major operation that carries a number of risks, so it’s usually only done if it’s the safest option for you and your baby.

A caesarean may be recommended as a planned (elective) procedure or done in an emergency if it’s thought a vaginal birth is too risky.

Induction of labour

An induced labour is one that’s started artificially. Every year, 1 in 5 labours are induced in the UK. Sometimes labour can be induced if your baby is overdue or there’s any risk to you or your baby’s health. This risk could be if you have a health condition such as high blood pressure, for example, or your baby is not growing.

Induction will usually be planned in advance. You’ll be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages with your doctor and midwife, and find out why they think your labour should be induced.

It’s your choice whether to have your labour induced or not.

If your pregnancy lasts longer than 42 weeks and you decide not to have your labour induced, you should be offered increased monitoring to check your baby’s wellbeing.

Monitoring your baby in labour – fetal monitoring

Your midwife will monitor you and your baby during labour to make sure you’re both coping well.

This will include using a small handheld device to listen to your baby’s heart every 15 minutes. You’ll be free to move around as much as you want.

Your midwife may suggest electronic monitoring if there are any concerns about you or your baby, or if you choose to have an epidural.

Electronic monitoring involves strapping 2 pads to your bump. One pad is used to monitor your contractions and the other is used to monitor your baby’s heartbeat. These pads are attached to a monitor that shows your baby’s heartbeat and your contractions.

Sometimes a clip called a fetal heart monitor can be attached to the baby’s head instead. This can give a more accurate measurement of your baby’s heartbeat.

You can ask to be monitored electronically even if there are no concerns. Having electronic monitoring can sometimes restrict how much you can move around.

Episiotomy and perineal tear

Sometimes a doctor or midwife may need to make a cut in the area between the vagina and anus (perineum) during childbirth. This is called an episiotomy.

An episiotomy makes the opening of the vagina a bit wider, allowing the baby to come through it more easily.

Sometimes a woman’s perineum may tear as their baby comes out. In some births, an episiotomy can help to prevent a severe tear or speed up delivery if the baby needs to be born quickly.

If your doctor or midwife feels you need an episiotomy when you’re in labour, they will discuss this with you. In England, episiotomies are not done routinely.

Up to 9 in 10 first-time mothers who have a vaginal birth will have some sort of tear, graze or episiotomy.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that an episiotomy might be done if:

  • the baby is in distress and needs to be born quickly, or
  • there is a need for forceps or vacuum (ventouse), or
  • there is a risk of a tear to the anus

Around 1 in 7 deliveries in England involves an episiotomy.

If you have a tear or an episiotomy, you’ll probably need stitches to repair it. Dissolvable stitches are used, so you will not need to return to hospital to have them removed.

Antenatal perineal massage

Massaging the perineum in the last few weeks of pregnancy can reduce the chances of having an episiotomy and perineal trauma during birth.

The type and frequency of massage varies across research studies. Most involve inserting 1 or 2 fingers into the vagina and applying downward or sweeping pressure towards the perineum.

The most benefit was in women who repeated this every day.

Breech at the end of pregnancy

Babies often twist and turn during pregnancy, but most will have moved into the head-down (also known as head-first) position by the time labour begins. However, that does not always happen, and a baby may be:

  • bottom first or feet first (breech position)
  • lying sideways (transverse position)

Bottom first or feet first (breech baby)

If your baby is lying bottom or feet first, they are in the breech position. If they’re still breech at around 36 weeks’ gestation, the obstetrician and midwife will discuss your options for a safe delivery.

Turning a breech baby

If your baby is in a breech position at 36 weeks, you’ll usually be offered an external cephalic version (ECV). This is when a healthcare professional, such as an obstetrician, tries to turn the baby into a head-down position by applying pressure on your abdomen. It’s a safe procedure, although it can be a bit uncomfortable. Around 50% of breech babies can be turned using ECV, allowing a vaginal birth.

Giving birth to a breech baby

If an ECV does not work, you’ll need to discuss your options for a vaginal birth or caesarean section with your midwife and obstetrician.

If you plan a caesarean and then go into labour before the operation, your obstetrician will assess whether it’s safe to proceed with the caesarean delivery. If the baby is close to being born, it may be safer for you to have a vaginal breech birth.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) website has more information on what to expect if your baby is still breech at the end of pregnancy.

The RCOG advises against a vaginal breech delivery if:

  • your baby’s feet are below its bottom – known as a “footling breech”
  • your baby is larger or smaller than average – your healthcare team will discuss this with you
  • your baby is in a certain position – for example, their neck is very tilted back, which can make delivery of the head more difficult
  • you have a low-lying placenta (placenta praevia)
  • you have pre-eclampsia

Lying sideways (transverse baby)

If your baby is lying sideways across the womb, they are in the transverse position. Although many babies lie sideways early on in pregnancy, most turn themselves into the head-down position by the final trimester.