A normal period to give birth is between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. Labour can begin with contractions or rupture of the membranes (water breaking). During the last weeks of your pregnancy we will let you know when you need to call us. If labour starts before 37 weeks of pregnancy, contact us immediately.
When you need to contact us, as in the following situations, call the emergency number to reach the on-call midwife:
06 1424 3550
If there is no answer, wait 5 minutes and try again. In emergencies we can also be reached through the messaging service:
020 618 1818
Most births begin with contractions, the tightening of the uterus. Contractions are characterised by pain that comes and goes and that increasingly gets stronger, longer and more frequent. Continuous, persistent pain is not normal. When contractions begin they are usually irregular, don’t last long and are not very painful.
Dilatation usually starts once contractions occur every 5 minutes, last for 1 minute and become stronger. With these contractions, dilatation occurs at the rate of about 1 centimetre per hour. During the labour of a first baby, therefore, you can wait one to two hours before calling us. For a second or next baby, we ask that you call as soon as the contractions become more painful and have been coming every five minutes for half an hour to an hour.
If your labour is progressing quickly, call us immediately. This is usually the case if the contractions are coming every two to three minutes or if you begin to feel pressure or the urge to push. Labour can sometimes progress quickly once your water breaks. Of course, you may always call if you are unsure or worried or if you are having difficulties handling the contractions.
Labour can also start when the amniotic sac tears, after which amniotic fluid flows out (your water breaks). Amniotic fluid can come out in one large gush or trickle out bit by bit and usually continues in a steady flow. Collect a bit of the fluid in a cup or maxi pad so that we can examine it when we visit you at home.
Normal amniotic fluid is clear: like water, white with flakes or pink. If you are at least 37 weeks pregnant and the baby’s head is already engaged, call us during the day (between 9:00 and 21:00). If your water breaks at night, the fluid is clear and everything else is normal there is no need to call.
You need to take your temperature (rectally) every 4 to 6 hours. If your temperature is above 37.5°C call us immediately.
Once your water breaks, you will need to give birth within 24 hours. This is because as time passes the chance of infection increases. To prevent infection do not take a bath, use tampons or have sex.
If the amniotic fluid is green or brown, the baby has probably pooped (meconium). In this case, call us immediately, 24 hours a day.
If the baby’s head is not engaged, you will receive clear instructions during your appointment. If your water breaks in this event please lay down and call us, 24 hours a day.
Before or during labour you may lose your mucus plug. This can also be accompanied by a small amount of blood loss. Labour could begin after this happens, although it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will. You do not need to call if you lose your mucus plug.
Besides the situations mentioned above, there are many other reasons to call us immediately.
Always call the emergency number if:
- you are unsure because you feel your baby moving less
- you experience heavy, bright red vaginal bleeding
- you have continuous, persistent abdominal pain
- you feel sick or feverish (>37.5C)
- you are unsure or worried