When to go to the Hospital, Birthing Centre, or Call Your Midwife

  • When you are bleeding from your birth canal (vagina), more than light spotting.
  • When your contractions are 5 minutes apart and about a minute long for an hour (your health care provider may ask you to go to the hospital earlier).
  • When your bag of water (amniotic sac) breaks unless given other instructions by your care provider.

Beautiful Drumming and Singing

I was at a birth with an Anishinabeg woman who was having her first baby. She had planned a home birth, but it was a long birth. After lots of pushing, the woman became exhausted and the baby was not descending any further. We tried different positions for pushing, different tricks we had to bring the baby, and then thought, “Okay, what do we do now? We’ll have to move into the hospital.” Her sister picked up her drum, went to another room, and started singing and drumming. After hearing the sounds, the woman became revitalized and began to push with renewed effort and vigor. The baby was coming! We asked her sister to keep drumming. Soon after, the baby was born to the sound of that beautiful drumming and singing. It was amazing! The cultural aspects of care helped that woman and helped that baby come into the world. Everything was brought together in that moment. It was a really beautiful experience. As midwives, we were running out of ideas. It was up to the family, the community, perhaps the spirit world, to help out

Timing Your Contractions

  • Begin timing at the start of one contraction. Stop timing at the start of the next contraction.
  • When labour first starts, the contractions are usually far apart.
  • Confirm with your health care provider when you should call or go to the hospital.

Birthing Songs

During labour, songs are sung to the woman and the baby. This is done to help ease her pain and as a guide for the baby’s spirit. The songs are typically birthing songs and lullabies. The song that was sung to me was about a canoe full of warriors coming home from battle and it was a long row home and they were so tired so tired, their arms are weary and they are missing home. They can’t wait and they need to be home and when they get there they will feast and be rested. It was a beautiful song with a very powerful rhythm.

The Four Stages of Labour


Your contractions will slowly get stronger. They will happen more often and last longer. By the end of this stage your cervix will be thinner (effaced) and will open (dilate) to 10 cm (4 inches). Your baby will move down into your pelvis.

Third Stage of Labour

During this stage you will be pushing the placenta out. Ask your care provider about delayed cord clamping. Who wants to cut the cord?


You will have more contractions. They will be very strong. You will feel the need to push. Your baby will be born.


During this stage you will be resting after all your effort during labour and birth. You will be spending time with your baby. Skin to skin contact with your baby will help you bond with your baby. This is a good time to start breast feeding.


Contractions feel like menstrual cramps at first, and then they get stronger. They come and go in waves, with shorter and shorter time between them. It is important to go with the flow and stay relaxed. It is your body expanding for the baby to come through the birth canal. It is important for your partner or support person to stay positive, tell jokes or or offer encouragement, a hand to hold or to sing.

Cedar Bath

For some First Nations, cedar is a medicine. Some Elders say a baby’s first bath should be with cedar to help the baby grow strong and healthy, and help the belly button heal. Women can also have a cedar baths when feeling tired or not well. Talk to a knowledge keeper in your community for more information.

Anishinabeg Teachings

I was taught to bring the placenta to my home territory. The placenta is then buried whichbrings it back to the land. I did not get to keep the placenta of my first child, but in my second pregnancy, I was able to keep the placenta. After my baby was born, the midwife showed me the placenta and how the veins and arteries formed the pattern of a tree.

The umbilical cords were kept once they dried up and fell off. These were put in the medicine bundle. In other Anishinabeg communities, some women put the cord in the home near the attributes the parents want the child to have. For example, one woman put the cord in a medical textbook because she wants her child to become a doctor.

Staying Comfortable during Labour

Contractions come and go during labour. You will have a short rest period in between contractions.

Here are some ways to stay comfortable during a contraction:

Try using a breathing exercise. You may learn this in a prenatal class, or ask someone to show you.

Try to find something to look at or think about during your contractions. Some people look at a picture or repeat a saying or prayer.

Have someone massage your lower back or press on the place where it hurts. It is very common to request a different kind of massage as the labour progresses.

Listen to music.

Have a shower or bath.

If you are hungry, you can eat during labour. If you do not want to eat food, try drinking water/juice or chewing on ice chips/popsicles.

Go to the bathroom every hour. Having an empty bladder gives your baby room to move down.

Try changing position. (click for examples)

Medical Procedures during Labour and Birth

Sometimes babies need some help to be born. Here are some medical procedures that your health care provider may use. Talk with your health care provider about these during your prenatal visits. This will help you to know what to expect and to be aware of the risks and benefits of each procedure.


  • Ways to start your labour with special medications that mimic your hormones
  • Labour may be induced because the baby is overdue, the bag of water (amniotic sac) breaks but there are no contractions, or for special health reasons.

Pain Medication

  • Intravenous Infusion (IV) may be used to give you fluids, medication, or pain medicine through your arm.
  • An Epidural may be used to give you pain medicine through your back, into the spinal spaces.

Fetal Monitoring

  • A machine called a fetal monitor may be used to listen to the baby’s heart beat. It can also be used to check your contractions.


  • This is a small cut to make the opening of the birth canal (vagina) bigger.
  • The cut may be in the middle or on the side.
  • It helps the baby to come out if the baby needs to be born quickly.
  • You will need to have stitches.

Forceps and Vacuum Extraction

  • Forceps are a spoon-like tool that fits safely around the baby’s head.
  • Vacuum extraction uses a soft cup that fits safely on top of the baby’s head and is attached to a machine.

They are used when:

  • The mother is too tired to push effectively on her own.
  • The baby is not in a good position to be born.
  • The baby needs to be born quickly.

Caesarean Section (C-section)

  • This involves the baby being born through a cut in your abdomen and womb (uterus).

There are many reasons why a C-section may be done:

  • The baby is very big.
  • The baby is lying with its legs down instead of its head.
  • Special health reasons.
  • Problems with the umbilical cord or placenta.
  • The baby needs to be born quickly.
  • Labour is very strong with little progress.

Having a C-section may be unexpected.
Your health care provider will let you know if a C-section is needed to help your baby be born safely.