Throughout your labour, no matter where you give birth, your midwife is in charge of the health and wellbeing of both you and your baby. This includes monitoring your baby’s heartbeat. Your midwife will monitor your vital signs throughout your labour

What to pack in my hospital bag

It’s always good to be prepared! So it’s handy to have things ready for when you do go in to labour. Of course this means making sure you have your hospital bag packed for both you and baby. We’ve created our hospital bag checklist to remind you what to include…

  •  A loose-fitting nighty or t-shirt for you to wear during your labour
  • Slippers and a dressing gown
  • Toiletries, flannel and towel
  • Newborn nappies and clothing for your baby – don’t forget the all-important ‘going home’ outfit!
  • Maternity pads and changes of underwear – comfy knickers are best – the bigger the better!
  • Comfortable, loose clothing for you to wear when you leave hospital
  • Drinks and snacks for you and your birthing partner(s)
  • Books, magazines or music – if you’ve created a ‘labour playlist’ don’t forget your phone charger or speaker too.

Self-help before and during labour

There are lots of things you can do both before and during labour, to help and prepare yourself for giving birth. This includes…

  • Learning about labour – this can make you feel more in control and less frightened about what’s going to happen. Talk to your midwife, ask them questions, and book on to our antenatal classes.
  • Learn how to relax - stay calm and breathe deeply. There are lots of online apps and videos that can help you do this. 
  • Have a bath – if you’re in the early stages of labour at home, you may want to run a nice hot bath which will help ease your pain.
  • Keep moving – your position can make a difference, so try kneeling, walking around, or rocking backwards and forwards. 
  • Massage – depending on how you feel, a massage from your birthing partner may help you to feel more relaxed and comfortable

Birthing pool, hypnobirthing and tens

Birthing pool

A water birth means at least part of your labour, delivery, or both happen while you're in a birthing pool filled with warm water. Being in water during labour is shown to help with pain as well as being more relaxing and soothing. The water can help to support your weight, making it easier to move around and feel more in control during labour.
The water will be kept at a temperature that is comfortable for you but not above 37°C.  When you’re in the water, you can wear whatever feels comfortable for you. Some people choose to wear a bikini, others choose to just wear a bra. If you prefer to me more covered you can wear a t-shirt or vest. You may want to be naked. It is entirely your choice. 


Breathing exercises have long been part of antenatal classes. Hypnobirthing takes this and adds relaxation, visualisation and mindfulness techniques to help you concentrate on your body and the birth of your baby. In some cases, hypnobirthing has been shown to make labour shorter. It can be used with all other types of pain relief and be added to your birth plan.
If hypnobirthing is something you wish to use throughout your labour, we will fully support you. Make sure you have a chat with your midwife and add this to your birth plan.


TENS machine

A TENS machine is most effective during the early stages of labour. It is a small machine that is attached to your back with sticky pads. It sends out tiny electrical impulses to block pain signals sent from your body to your brain. This means you are less aware of the pain. It can also trigger the release of endorphins, which are your body's pain-relieving chemicals. The machine doesn’t affect your baby and you can control it yourself. You can also use other pain relief at the same time.

Gas and air, morphine, and epidural

Gas and air

This is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide gas. You breathe this in using a mask or mouthpiece, which you hold yourself. It works quickly and can be used at any time during labour. Gas and air works best if you take slow, deep breaths. Gas and air will not remove all of the pain you are feeling, but it can help reduce it and make it more bearable. Many women like it because it’s easy to use and they control it themselves.

Pain relief injections
We are able to offer injections for pain relief including morphine, diamorphine, pethidine and similar drugs (called opioids). Each one works slightly differently. The side effects and times at which you can be given them, will vary depending on which drug you are given. These injections will be given to you into your thigh or bottom and will take around 20 minutes to work. The effects last between two and four hours. You can speak to your midwife about your options and any questions you may have. 


For most people who give birth, an epidural gives complete pain relief. It can be helpful for women who are having a long or particularly painful labour. An epidural is a local anaesthetic that is injected into the spine and topped up as needed. It is given by an anaesthetist. It numbs the nerves that carry the pain impulses from the birth canal to the brain. We have a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, epidural service at Sunderland Royal Hospital Delivery Suite. We have a resident Anaesthetist working on delivery suite at all times, to provide you with an epidural if you choose this as your pain relief option when you are in labour.

The labour pains website has some useful information that you may wish to read.

Emergency and Elective Caesarean Section

We have a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, emergency surgery service at Sunderland Royal Hospital delivery suite. This includes a resident Anaesthetist covering our labour ward at all times, if you may need analgesia required for an emergency or an elective caesarean section.

A caesarean section, or C-section, is an operation to deliver your baby through a cut made in your tummy and womb. You can read more about C-sections on the NHS website.

If you have any more questions about Obstetrics Anaesthetic services please contact your community midwife for more information.

Welcoming your baby to the world - Skin to Skin

As soon as baby is born, a lovely way to welcome them to the world is by spending time holding them in skin-to-skin contact. Holding your baby in skin-to-skin directly after birth for at least an hour or until after the first feed, regardless of your feeding choice, will have benefits for both you and your baby.

There is growing evidence that skin-to-skin contact after the birth helps babies and their mothers. The practice:

  • calms and relaxes both mother and baby
  • regulates the baby’s heart rate and breathing, helping them to better adapt to life outside the womb
  • stimulates digestion and an interest in feeding
  • regulates temperature
  • enables colonisation of the baby’s skin with the mother’s friendly bacteria, providing protection against infection
  • stimulates the release of hormones to support breastfeeding and mothering.

Whether you wish to bottle feed or breast feed, skin-to-skin is the perfect place to give baby their first feed.

Partners can also have skin-to-skin with baby, however we recommend that first contact is with mam.