How to be In Control of your Labour


When I ask women what they want during their labour and birth, to be in control always crops up.

Due to modern media and scare-mongering stories from co-workers, friends and family, we think that being out of control in labour is a given. Nine times out of ten, you’ll be imagining a clinical hospital room filled with doctors and midwives in gowns and gloves rushing around you saying ‘we have to do this’, ‘we have to do that’ while you’re screaming and just going with whatever is presented to you in the moment.

This doesn’t have to be the case. And you don’t HAVE to do anything.

Many people often forget that healthcare professionals need to abide by something called ‘informed consent’. But what exactly does it mean?

‘‘Informed consent: Permission granted in full knowledge of the possible consequences, including the risks and benefits of the treatment offered’’.

So, any information given to you legally needs to be shared with you in a balanced and factual way. The benefits and the risks must be given. And the final decision whether to accept or decline treatment lies with you.

Healthcare professionals should never coerce or steer you to make a certain decision. They should give you all the information and support you to make your own choice around you and your baby. The bottom line is, it is YOUR CHOICE.

This is not to say that intervention is bad. It can be the best path and most importantly it can be life saving. What we’re saying is YOU make the decision once YOU feel informed enough to do so. You should go into each decision confident that YOU are HAPPY with the information presented to you, knowing YOU have made the best choice with that information. You should never feel that you HAD to do something because a health professional told you so.

You don’t HAVE to have a ‘little sweep’ that can potentially introduce bacteria to your baby’s environment. In fact, most women don’t know that by the time a sweep can be ‘successful’, your body has already started to go into labour and would have done naturally anyway.

You don’t HAVE to be induced at 41+5 weeks because your baby is late or overdue. The US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has found that the length of pregnancy can vary naturally by as much as five weeks. In fact, your baby will come when your baby is ready. You should only go into labour once your baby has released a protein that tells your body that their lungs have fully developed and are ready for the outside world. How AMAZING is that?! And if you’re a bit nervous, you can ask for regular monitoring past 40 weeks to check baby is still fine in that lovely home inside your tummy. On the other hand, if there’s a medical reason to be induced and baby is genuinely at risk by staying inside, great - an induction is probably right for you and your baby! How lucky are we to have modern medicine?!

So how exactly do you stay in control of your labour and birth?

  • Use the BRAIN tool. Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instinct, Nothing. What are the benefits? What are the risks? Are there any alternatives? What does your instinct tell you? What happens if you do nothing? Gather this information and you will be informed enough to make your decision.

  • Avoid making a decision there and then on the spot. Usually, there’s enough time to be able to think, mull it over, research, gather information and get back to the healthcare professional when you’re comfortable with your decision. It’s in our nature to just nod and go along with whatever anybody with authority tells us, but by taking time we can really make sure we’re making an informed decision and not an impulsive choice.

  • Research yourself! Offered a sweep? Offered an induction? Been told you need to be on the labour ward rather than in the birth centre? Ask why the midwife has recommended this. Take a look at NICE guidelines. Visit the AIMS website. Extra tip: Don’t ask on MUMSNET or FACEBOOK! Look for factual, professional information.

  • Realise that you can change your mind. Booked in for an induction but don’t feel it’s the best decision? You can still say no. Said you didn’t want diamorphine on your birth plan, but want it now? You can ask for it.

  • Prepare ahead of your midwife appointments. Write a list of questions. This is easier for you to remember to ask what you need to, and is a bit of a comfort reading from a piece of paper. Your midwife will probably be glad to see you have taken the time to think through your choices and decisions ahead of time.

  • Take some time. Sometimes things don’t go to our original plan, and you may have decided that actually an assisted delivery or c-section is the best for you and your baby given your situation. Ask for a few minutes. Breathe. Let the panic melt away. Cuddle and kiss your partner. Get that oxytocin flowing. Trust that you’ve made a good decision YOURSELF. Prepare for this new plan but positive experience.

Want to learn more about your choices and decisions for your upcoming birth? Book onto one of our group courses in Cwmbran or get in touch to ask about a private course.

Hope you enjoyed reading!

Jess x

Jessica Neal