What to expect at the maternity unit

What to expect at the maternity unit
Once upon a time maternity units were cold, clinical places that had one main function: to deliver babies.

Maternity units nowadays are completely different, as we have come to appreciate that the entire atmosphere of the surroundings can make a world of difference to mums and dads to be! As a result, maternity units now try to offer a warm and relaxed atmosphere with friendly staff in a setting that is made to resemble as homely an environment as possible within a medical setting. It is now recognised that seeing all of the specialist high-tech equipment that may be needed during labour can make the experience impersonal and somewhat off-putting, so this tends to be kept out of sight to keep you as relaxed as possible for as long as possible.

In the lead-up to the birth you may wish to talk to your midwife about the maternity unit that you plan to give birth in, as she will be able to tell you about their procedures and what you can expect. You will also be able to go and visit the maternity unit of your choice so you can see how you feel about, how it looks, how they do things and what the staff are like. Being familiar with the unit and the facilities may help you to feel more comfortable in your final stages of pregnancy.

You should have already phoned ahead and spoken to the labout ward before arriving at the maternity unit, so your first port of call will be to take your notes to the admissions desk where you will be booked in. You will then be taken to either a ward or a room where you will be able to settle in and get changed before the midwife comes to examine you. The first thing she will do will be to check your blood pressure, your temperature, your pulse and take a sample of urine and blood. Next she will listen to your baby’s heartbeat and examine your abdomen so that she can check your baby’s position. Finally the midwife will perform an internal examination so that she can tell how many centimetres dilated you are, and only then will she be able to tell how far into labour you are.

These checks will be repeated regularly throughout your stay so that your progress can be monitored. If you have made a birth plan detailing the kind of labour you want, including details of the pain relief you would like, show it to the midwife so that she can try to help you to achieve the exact kind of birth you want. Remember that this is not always possible as births can be very unpredictable, but she will try and help you wherever possible.

If labour is progressing slowly you may be moved to a ward until you are in established labour. Once the midwife can determine this you will be moved to a delivery suite where you will stay until the birth of your baby. Again these are now made to look very homely to put you at ease. If you are unsure about what is happening and would like anything explained then you should feel free to ask, as this is an important time and the staff will be happy to reassure you and put your mind at rest.

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