Labour and delivery

Planning your birth

Additional information Bump, Birth and Beyond

Bump, Birth and Beyond have lots of information on how you can prepare for the birth, whether you’ve given birth before or this is your first baby.

Birth location

Pregnant women, birthing people and their partners can choose between birthing at home, or in hospital either on the labour ward or in a midwifery-led unit.

The health professionals supporting your maternity journey will support you with your options and preferences. There are a number of advantages and considerations when choosing your place of birth and wherever you choose, the place should feel right for you and you should feel supported in your decision. You can change your mind at any point in your pregnancy.

If we need to change your place of birth

Upon registering with your midwife, you will be choosing your preferred place of birth and we strive to honour this at all times.

It is our aim to ensure we maintain a safe service for all women, and at times when activity is high in an individual unit, this may mean your care may be transferred to the other hospital, for the safety of you and your baby. Aside from location, we will work with you to ensure your care is in line with your original plan.

Birth location - hospital

Our consultant led units at the William Harvey and the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospitals offer specialised obstetric care for labour and birth for those women with complications as well as for those women who would prefer to give birth where there is immediate access to specialist services.

The hospital has paediatricians who staff a level three Neonatal Intensive Care unit which means that the unit accepts transfers of both pregnant women and newly delivered babies from across the South East and also from London. Babies who are born prematurely after 24 weeks and those who are sick are cared for in this unit.

The Special Care Baby Unit takes babies born after 28 weeks. Those babies born earlier or who are very sick are transferred to William Harvey Hospital.

Virtual tours are available of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at William Harvey Hospital and the Special Baby Care Unit at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital. Trigger warning: If you are a parent or carer and wish to use the virtual tours to explore the neonatal unit where your baby was cared for, please make sure you are in a safe space and feel emotionally ready to revisit the unit.

Virtual tours of neonatal units in Kent, Surrey and Sussex are also available on the Neonatal Network South East's website. You can also find out more about neonatal care in Kent and Medway over at Bump, Birth and Beyond.

In both hospitals following birth, mother and baby are transferred and cared for on the postnatal wards. Most women are discharged home twenty-four hours after the birth. Once at home the community midwife will visit until the baby is ten days old or if needed until the baby is four weeks old.

Birth location - midwifery led unit

If you are fit and healthy with an uncomplicated pregnancy you may want to consider having a baby at one of our midwife-led units.

These units are located within the hospitals at Ashford (Singleton) and Margate (St Peter's). They are located close to the consultant led ‘traditional’ labour wards. These units are run by midwives to encourage and support normal birth. They both have two birth pools offering the use of water for pain relief and/or a water birth. There are facilities to support more upright positions in labour as well as space to move around e.g. birth balls, mats, and wall bars. Gas and air and pethidine are available for pain relief if needed but not an epidural. If you would like/need an epidural for pain relief then you would be transferred to the labour ward.

After you have had your baby you will be offered postnatal care up to 24 hours after the birth although it is expected that most women will go home within 6 to 12 hours after the birth of their babies. There are facilities for women and their families to make drinks and snacks. All rooms are ensuite. Partners are welcome and encouraged to stay with you if you would like.

Birth location - homebirth

We are pleased that we can now start to resume homebirth at East Kent Hospitals.

Please speak to your Community Midwife should you choose to birth at home. All women who plan to have a homebirth will have a detailed discussion about their birth plan with their midwife.

Information for birth partners

Whether you’re related to the baby being born, or are a sister, mother or a friend, being a birth partner is a great honour. There are a few things to think about before the big day arrives, so getting prepared is the best way to be able to support someone who is about to give birth.

Whatever birth setting your partner is planning to give birth, the most important thing is to know exactly what she wants. Whether that’s to accept pain relief, birth in water or to have a caesarean, knowing her birth plan is key.

Bump, Birth and Beyond has information on how you can support your partner during labour, delivery and beyond as well as how to look after yourself, too.

Birth plan

A birth plan is a record of what you would like to happen during your labour and after the birth. You don't have to create a birth plan but, if you would like one, your midwife will be able to help.

Discussing a birth plan with your midwife gives you the chance to ask questions and find out more about what happens in labour.

It also gives your midwife the chance to get to know you better, and understand your feelings and priorities, and allows you to think about or discuss some things more fully with your partner, friends and relatives.

Where you plan to birth affects the type of birth, you’re more likely to experience. The pain relief on offer depends on the setting. To help you decide, have a read about where to birth, and check out our helpful birth choices page.

Of course, as well as choosing the setting, there is the question of whom to involve. Having a birth partner who is well prepared to support you can have a direct impact on your ability to relax and birth. provides a birth planning guide and template with lots of items to consider. You can bring any questions to your midwife appointments as you develop your birth preferences.

Hospital bags

You'll need to pack a bag if you're going into hospital or birth centre. Even if you're planning a home birth it's good to have one ready just in case you need to go in.

For yourself, you will probably want to pack:

  • Snacks and drinks for labour to keep your energy levels up

  • Clothes for labour - an old nightie, t-shirt, and bikini top if you want to go in the pool

  • Hair bobbles/clips - to keep your hair off your face when in labour

  • Hairbrush

  • Toiletry bag - shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, flannel

  • Towel

  • Maternity pads

  • Big knickers (cotton knickers are best, make sure they are comfy)

  • Nightie or pyjamas for after baby is born - you may need a couple of pairs

  • Phone charger

  • Lip balm (gas and air can make your lips go dry)

  • Slippers

  • Non-wired or maternity bras

  • Breast pads

  • Clothes to go home from hospital in

  • Wet wipes - to freshen yourself up with

  • If breastfeeding, you may want to buy nipple cream.

For your baby, you might want to pack:

  • Nappies

  • Cotton wool - it's recommended you use this and water to clean baby's bum until 1 month of age

  • Vests

  • Sleepsuits/ baby grows

  • Scratch mitts

  • Socks

  • Hat

  • Cardigan

  • Nappy bags

  • Barrier cream

  • Bibs

  • Formula and bottles, if choosing not to breastfeed

  • Muslin cloth - for when baby vomits

  • Outfit to go home in

  • Car seat - make sure you know how to work this before you go home!

  • Blanket

  • Coat or snowsuit to go home in depending on the time of year you are due.

Induction of labour

Induction of labour is recommended when it is safer for your baby to be born in the next few days rather than for the pregnancy to continue. This could be to do with the way your baby is growing, or your own health, or other factors. It is important to know what’s involved in induction, in order to make an informed decision about your baby’s birth.

Inductions usually take place in hospital, although in some cases you can spend some time at home in the first stages.

The process of induction can take one, two or several days. The first step is to prepare the cervix (neck of the womb) so it softens and opens slightly. This may be with medication in the vagina or by inserting a device which can gently and gradually stretch the cervix. This part of the process may last for a day or so.

Sometimes the first step will be enough to start labour contractions, which may progress similarly to a labour which starts without intervention. Often the next step is needed, where your waters are broken by a midwife or doctor. The release of waters reduces the pressure in your womb and sometimes this will trigger contractions to start.

If the release of waters does not trigger contractions, then medication in a drip (syntocinon) can be used to cause contractions.

For around one in five women, induction doesn’t work, and other options are discussed. Overall, for women who have not had a baby vaginally before, there is around one in a third chance of having a vaginal birth without assistance, an assisted birth or caesarean section.

Your midwife will be able to discuss this with you, taking into account your own circumstances.