Labour Ward

Our labour ward has 11 birthing rooms; they are large, light and airy rooms with en-suite bathrooms. The labour ward also has 2 co-located maternity theatres and a two bedded recovery area, and we also offer women birth in our 4 bedded Midwifery Led Unit. Our unit has a neonatal unit and a transitional care unit to provide care for your baby. In our rooms you have the option of playing music, using birthing balls, and adjusting the bed to suit your needs.

The latent phase of labour (pre-labour)

The majority of women who attend our triage do so because they believe they may be in established labour.  Labour is thought to be established from when the cervix becomes 4cm dilated or more and you are experiencing regular painful contractions. There is however, an early phase of labour (the latent phase), when the cervix is closed until it dilates to 4cm. It does not last a specific amount of time and you can experience irregular, painful tightening’s or contractions during this phase. Contractions can last 30 to 60 seconds, and can vary in frequency from five to 20 minutes apart. Some women have backache which comes and goes, or stomach cramps. These can all stop and then start up again later on. This is all perfectly normal and is unique to every woman. The latent phase can last up to 24 hours or more and can be extremely tiring. During this phase the cervix, which was previously long and closed during pregnancy, gradually thins out and begins to open and can often result in the passing of a mucus ‘show’ from the vagina which might be clear,  blood-tinged or streaked with old, brownish blood when it comes away, or pink in colour - this is perfectly normal.

Entering a clinical hospital environment at this early stage can increase adrenaline levels, which suppress the body’s natural labour hormones and can slow down your labour. We therefore encourage women to stay at home or return home in the latent phase, where they will often feel more relaxed and comfortable. Here are things you can try at home to help you through the latent phase:


A warm bath or shower can be extremely soothing and relaxing.  These can be taken at regular intervals. Be careful not to get overheated and if you do feel this way come out of the water, have a cold drink and cool off for a while.


Backache is one of the most common complaints in labour. Massage can be extremely useful in relieving this and can be particularly effective when focussing on the lower back; your birthing birth partner can do this for you.

Food and drink

Once you reach established labour you may not have much of an appetite so it is important in the latent phase to keep drinking and eating light meals or snacks to prepare you for active labour. High energy drinks and easily digestible high calorie foods will help maintain energy levels.


Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator machines are ideal to use in the latent phase of labour. The machines can be bought or hired during the pregnancy and work by delivering small electrical pulses to the body via electrodes placed on the skin. TENS machines are thought to affect the way pain signals are sent to the brain. They also stimulate the body to release its own pain relieving chemicals, called endorphins. You can arrange to hire or purchase one in advance of your labour.


Paracetamol tablets are perfectly safe to take during pregnancy and labour, and combined with baths and massage, are very useful in easing the discomfort of the latent phase. Take 1g (normally two 500mg tablets) every four to six hours. Do not take more than eight tablets (500mg) tablets in 24 hours.

Contacting the midwife

Once the contractions have become regular (approximately three in 10 minutes), stronger and longer lasting and you have tried some or all the above, you may want to contact Maternity Triage again for advice if you have not already done so. The midwives will ask questions to ensure you and the baby are well, and you may be asked to attend the maternity unit, but will be advised appropriately depending on the assessment made during the call.

After the birth

If your birth is straight -forward you may decide to go home within a few hours of birth, please discuss this with your midwife. If you or your baby need continuing care this will be discussed with you and an individualised plan made. Sometimes your baby may require some additional support which may be provided in either the neonatal unit or transitional care unit located at Hillingdon.

Telephone numbers:

01895 279441 / 01895 279463

Any specific visiting restrictions:

Birthing partners only. No children until after baby is born, then only baby's siblings on the ward for a short period of time only.

Senior Midwife:

Labour ward co-ordinator


Jo Dunckley

Getting to the Labour Ward

Use the AccessAble access guides to help plan your journey and easily find you way around the hospital.

Access guides to hearing aid centre

Maternity Voices      Baby friendly        Great Expectations Charity