Dr Glenda McLaren
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Dr Glenda McLaren
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

Labour and Delivery

Labour and Birth

Most labours start naturally between 37 and 42 weeks. Interestingly only around 5% of labours start spontaneously on the due date.

Spontaneous labour usually starts with uterine contractions which increase in strength and frequency. Your waters may also break, or you may notice increasing back pain, crampy period pain, diarrhoea or pass your cervical mucous plug, commonly called a “show”.

Every pregnancy and labour are unique, and some factors are beyond our control making it difficult to plan birth. The ultimate birth plan is to keep mother and baby safe and healthy.

If you are uncertain whether you are in labour, don’t hesitate to contact your Obstetrician or the Pregnancy Assessment Centre. 

Read more about Labour & Birth from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 

Premature Labour

A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. Delivery before 37 weeks is classified as premature. Approximately 7–10% of all deliveries occur before 37 weeks. Premature babies can be at risk of a number of possible complications including immature lungs, infection and cerebral palsy. The Mater Mother’s Private Hospital where Dr McLaren chooses to deliver has an exceptional Neonatal Critical Care Unit providing care for premature babies. 

Before a premature birth, there are a number of treatments for pregnant women that can improve health outcomes for babies born prematurely. These include: 

  • Steroids can be given to help improve babies’ lung maturity
  • Antibiotics can be given to reduce the risk of neonatal infection
  • Magnesium Sulphate can be given intravenously to reduce the risk of cerebral palsy
  • Medication to slow down or reduce uterine contractions can be given to extend the time for the other medications to work.

Signs of premature labour can be vaginal discharge, bleeding, fluid loss, crampy lower abdominal pain, backache and uterine contractions.

If you develop any of these signs during your pregnancy after 20 weeks, contact your Obstetrician or the Pregnancy Assessment centre immediately.

Induction of labour

Induction of labour – stimulating the uterus to start contracting – may be necessary of the benefits of delivery outweigh the risks of waiting for natural labour.

The most common reasons for inducing labour are preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, decreased fetal movements or bleeding at term, being overdue or having ruptured your membranes where the risk of infection increases the longer it takes for natural labour to start.

Read more about Induction of Labour from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 

Pain Control in Labour

There are several safe and effective methods you can use to cope with labour, including natural, non-medical and medical options.

Your Obstetrician will discuss these with you and your preferences during the course of your antenatal care.

Read more about the full range of options from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 

Monitoring in labour

During labour it is important to intermittently monitor the condition of the mother and baby to ensure that both are responding normally to the challenges that labour can make on the body. Your baby’s heartrate and your uterine contractions are commonly monitored using a cardiotocograph, or CTG.  

Some labours need to be monitored more closely with continuous monitoring to ensure the best outcome for you and your baby.

Assisted Birth

Approximately 1 in 8 births need assistance with a forceps or ventose and there a number of reasons why this may be necessary. The choice of instrument will depend on the clinical situation with most Obstetricians preferring the ventose. 

Breech birth

Approximately 4% of babies are positioned ‘breech’ (bottom first) at term.

There are three types of breech presentation and it depends which way your baby is presenting as to whether it is safe to have a vaginal breech birth. Your Obstetrician will talk with you about your options. 

Caesarean section

Approximately 30% of babies are born by caesarean section. Caesarean Section is very important for safety reasons in situations such as placenta praevia, footling breech presentation, transverse lie, cord prolapse, vasa praevia, antepartum haemorrhage, placental insufficiency causing fetal growth restriction and twin-twin transfusion.  

Some women elect to have a Caesarean Section for other reasons and informed choice in childbirth is very important.  

These days recovery after a Caesarian Section can be very good, however, women need to be aware of the risks of multiple Caesarean Sections.  

The planned mode of delivery will be discussed with you throughout your pregnancy and ultimately it will depend on the progress of your pregnancy, and the safety of you and your baby.

Read more about Caesarean Section from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Read more about Caesarean Section from the Pregnancy Birth & Baby website. 

Vaginal Birth after Caesarean section

A VBAC or Vaginal Birth after Caesarean Section, may be an option for you providing it is safe to do so. There are risks and benefits of having a VBAC and these will be discussed with you during your pregnancy. Dr McLaren and her team are experienced in managing labours after Caesarean Section whist ensuring you and your baby are in good hands.

Read more about VBAC from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 

Water Birth

The Mater Mothers’ Private Hospital has two rooms with birth pools and one inflatable birth pool for women who choose to have a water birth providing it is safe to do so. There are other rooms with a bath for water immersion in labour and all rooms have a shower as well which is also very effective in labour to help relax.

Read more about the water birthing options at the Mater Mothers’ Private Hospital in Brisbane. 

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