Have a Happy Birth Day! What to expect in labour and child birth


Your labour will be your own—and you’ll have a unique story to tell. No one can tell you what your experience of labour will be like, or how long it will last, because every woman is different.

“Most babies are born simply and easily without any medical interventions. Your body has been carefully designed so that you likely have the ability to deliver your baby safely. You can trust in your own body to labour and give birth to your baby with the support of your health care provider and support team. “ [1

Family doctors share the philosophy that low risk births do not require medical intervention—they empower women to lead the process and support them to have a normal, safe birth that is guided by their choices.

How do I know I am in labour?

Every woman experiences labour in her own way. Labour begins in different ways. For some women the signs are clear, while for others it is not so easy to tell. It’s easy to think labour has started when it really hasn’t (called “false labour”).

Some indicators of “true labour” include:

  • Contractions happening at regular intervals
  • Contractions getting more severe, intense, or frequent over time
  • Contractions are felt in both the lower belly/abdomen and the lower back
  • They continue even when you change position (lying down, or changing sides)

How do I know my water sac has broken?

The sac (also called the membranes) around your baby has fluid in it called amniotic fluid. This sac can break and the fluid will leak from your vagina. You may feel just a trickle or a sudden gush. The colour of the fluid should be clear. For some women, their water will break prior to labor starting.  For others, it will happen after contractions have been happening for a while.

What comfort measures can I use to help with labour?

Good labour support is the foundation for coping with labour.   While you are in labour, you will need to pace yourself and rest whenever possible. Drink fluids to keep hydrated.

You can use comfort measures  to help cope with the pain of labour.  These include:

  • creating a calm environment: dim lights, privacy, music
  • changing positions in labour:  walking, positioning pillows for comfort, slow dancing with partner, sitting and swaying on birth ball (a large physiotherapy ball), rocking in a rocking chair
  • using touch: massage, cuddling, counter pressure against the lower back, acupressure
  • applying heat or cold: bath or shower, heating pad on groin or back, heated blanket,  ice pack on lower back, cool cloth to wipe face

If you are seeking a family doctor for pregnancy and post-partum care, you can find one in the directory at pregnancyvancouver.ca.

Pregnancy Vancouver is a project of the Vancouver Division of Family Practice (VDoFP). The VDoFP is creating a network of Family Doctors to enhance and facilitate knowledge exchange about prenatal and postpartum care, connect Family Doctors, and improve the maternity care referral process.

[1] Health Families BC, Baby’s Best Chance: Parents’ Handbook of Pregnancy and Baby Care