Now you’re pregnant

Due to the COVID-19 response, we need to keep making changes to the way we deliver Women, Youth and Children health services to keep our women and babies safe. We encourage you to regularly check our Temporary changes page for the latest advice.

When you find out you’re pregnant, call 5124 9977 to arrange an appointment with a midwife to access ACT public maternity care. This appointment will occur after you are 10 weeks pregnant. The midwife will talk to you about your pregnancy and birthing options, your health care needs and personal preferences and find the best maternity care for you.

An early pregnancy and parenting support phone line has been established to support women with early pregnancy, maternal and child health, breastfeeding and emotional wellbeing concerns. You can call 5124 1775 from Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm. Please leave a voicemail with your name, best contact number and reason for your call and a health professional will return your call.

For the latest information, please read the COVID-19 information for pregnant women fact sheet.

If you think you are pregnant you can get a pregnancy test or visit your GP. Your GP will be there to provide health advice, discuss any concerns you may have and support the long term needs of your growing family.

Once your pregnancy is confirmed and you would like to receive care in the public system, you will need to:

  • call 5124 9977 to book in to meet with a midwife close to home
  • book an appointment with a GP for early pregnancy care
  • meet a midwife early in your pregnancy to talk about public pregnancy and birthing options, complete a health and wellbeing assessment and discuss the best options for you
  • receive ongoing local support before, during and after your pregnancy.

You’re welcome to attend a free early pregnancy information session or learn about your maternity care options online.

There’s a lot of things you’ll need to consider when you’re pregnant, so here’s our go to guide for what you might need to know.

When to call – is it labour?

First baby

When you are having your first baby it difficult to know when labour is happening and when it is time to call the hospital midwives or your continuity midwife.

You may be advised to labour at home in the early stages. Early labour can last several hours or several days. Research has shown that women labour much better if they stay at home in the early stages.

In early labour you may have:

  • a blood-stained mucus discharge called a ‘show’
  • lower back pain
  • period like pain that comes and goes
  • loose bowel motions
  • an urge to vomit, or
  • your waters break (clear or pinkish colour).

In early labour, if you have a normal health pregnancy, you are encouraged to remain at home for as long as you can. Eat regular snacks and drink fluid to build up your energy reserves, and rest as much as possible. Try relaxing in the shower or use a heat pack for pain. It is important to go to the toilet regularly.

It is not always clear when to come to hospital. If you are worried at any point, call the Birth Suite midwives or your continuity midwife.

If it is your first baby, please contact the hospital midwives or your continuity midwife for advice when your contractions are:

  • regular
  • strong
  • about five minutes apart
  • lasting about 45-60 seconds

and this has been occurring for over an hour.

Second baby

Second babies often arrive more quickly than the first, so you may need to contact the Birth Suite or your midwife sooner.

Risk factors

If you have any risk factors such as a previous caesarean section or a high-risk pregnancy you may need monitoring sooner. If you are experiencing premature labour (before 37 weeks) you will need to come in for review. Always call the Birth Suite or your continuity midwife for guidance.

Once your waters break

If your waters break and it is NIGHT TIME - you can call first thing in the morning to let your continuity midwife or the Birth Suite midwives know if:

  • fluid is clear or pink (not green/black/brown or like blood)
  • baby is moving well or like you would normally expect
  • your baby is head down and was ‘engaged’ at your last pregnancy appointment
  • you were Group B Strep NEGATIVE or you declined the swab, and
  • you are not concerned.

Otherwise call the Birth Suite midives or your continuity midwife to discuss a plan for you.

If waters break and it is DAY TIME - call the Birth Suite midwives or your continuity midwife to let them know and a review will be arranged during that day, if all is ‘normal’, as above. 

If your waters break and you are Group B Strep POSITIVE:

  • call when your waters break as an induction of labour is recommended immediately/within six hours – talk to the care team if your preference is to not do this
  • you will be offered IV antibiotics in active labour, every four hours until your baby is born.

If you are unaware of your Group B Strep results, and your waters break, you will need to call the Birth Suite midwives or your continuity midwife.


Call the Birth Suite or your continuity midwife immediately if:

  • you pass any bright blood-stained fluid from the vagina
  • there is a reduction or change in fetal movement patterns
  • if your waters have broken and they are green or brown
  • if you are worried.


Below is a guide to what your contractions may be like.

2:1:1 As Labour establishes - this is the usual expected pattern of contractions:

  • Contractions two minutes apart
  • Lasting 60 seconds
  • Strong Intense contractions. You need to stop what you are doing to concentrate on breathing heavily through the contraction. You cannot talk during the contraction.
  • A regular pattern as below.
contractions 1

The hump is the contraction and the lines are the space/time in between contractions

Irregular contractions

Often women may experience irregular contractions as their body is establishing into labour. If you are managing well and are not concerned – you do not need to call.

Irregular contractions might look/feel like this...

contractions 2

The hump is the contraction and the lines are the space/time in between contractions

or this pattern of contractions, called “coupling”

contractions 3

The hump is the contraction and the lines are the space/time in between contractions

Birthing rooms

Birthing rooms have become more homely in recent years. There is space to move around, there are exercise balls and mats to use during labour and showers to use for pain relief. Some rooms have birthing pools. You should feel comfortable in the room where you are giving birth.

Water births

Some birthing rooms have birthing pools so that you can labour and give birth in water. A warm bath can be soothing in labour. You can choose to labour and birth in water if it is considered safe for you and your baby.

Birth plans

Many women develop labour and birth plans. It is a good idea to consider your preferences for labour and birth and discuss them with a midwife during the pregnancy. Labour and birth involve many variables, it is not always possible to predict what will happen. The maternity teams at Centenary Hospital for Women and Children are committed to providing the best care that is safe for you and your baby.

What to bring to hospital when you are having a baby

It is a good idea to have your bag packed at least a month before your baby is due. Below is a list of suggested items to bring to hospital. Try to keep your possessions limited to what will fit in an overnight bag.


  • Maternity record book
  • Medicare card
  • Birth preferences or plan (if you have one). Please aim to discuss and record your individual wishes as part of your birth plan during your pregnancy.

For yourself:

  • Loose and comfortable clothing to wear during labour
  • A few changes of comfortable day clothes and sleepwear
  • Maternity bras and comfortable underwear (several pairs)
  • Maternity sanitary pads x 2 packets
  • Toiletries (shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste etc)
  • Any medications that you regularly take
  • A black pen to fill in baby’s feeding chart
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Do not bring valuables—the hospital is not responsible for any lost valuables.

For your baby:

  • Newborn disposable nappies (1-2 packets) and baby wipes
  • Clothing for the baby to wear in hospital e.g. onesies and singlets
  • A ‘going home’ outfit for baby and baby blanket
  • Any frozen expressed breastmilk—please ensure this is labelled and is given to the midwives on arrival to be stored in the freezer  
  • Bottles and own formula if planning on formula feeding your baby
  • Baby capsule already fitted in your car. The hospital cannot check your car seat prior to discharge. Kidsafe ACT can check and install car seats.
    (Kidsafe ACT office: Pearce Community Centre, Collett Place, Pearce. Phone: 6290 2244. As of April 2020 they are still operating 9am – 3pm by appointment)

For labour:

  • We encourage you to wear your own comfortable clothes or nightdress
  • Anything you need to make your stay more comfortable, e.g. favourite pillow, music (you will need to bring your own device to play music), magazines, camera
  • Snacks and drinks for yourself and support person
  • A wheat heat pack (no hot water bottles permitted)
  • Massage and aromatherapy oils (no candles permitted)
  • A wide neck drink bottle for iced water in labour
  • A mirror and sieve if planning to birth in water.
Planning to go home after birth

If you have a vaginal birth and you and your baby are well, we recommend you go home within
 6 - 24 hours. If you have had a caesarean, a medical complication or a baby concern, a longer stay may be necessary. Your room may be either single or a shared room with ensuite.

Why is the recommended birth stay less than 24 hours?

Research indicates that you, your partner and your baby will bond more effectively, establish a new household routine more quickly and get more rest in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Studies also indicate that mothers who leave hospital within 24 hours breastfeed longer. 

At home, women usually find:

  • their partners and family are more involved in bonding with and caring for the baby
  • they sleep better
  • they rest more because there is no disruption and noise from other families/babies/visitors/cleaners
  • they can establish their own visiting times and routines.

How will I be supported at home?

A midwife will support you for up to seven days after you go home. During this time, you will also be able to contact your continuity midwife or the midwives in the postnatal ward for after-hours support.

What can I do to make the transition from hospital to home easier?     

  • Your partner may be able to arrange parental leave
  • Ensure you have your baby capsule fitted in your vehicle
  • Start developing your postnatal support group before your baby is born
  • Let your family know your stay in hospital after the birth of your baby is likely to be less than 24 hours
  • Accept offers of help
  • Have a supply of frozen meals in your freezer.


Genetic counselling

The ACT Genetic Service offers genetic counselling and clinical genetic consultations if you have concerns about the possibility of an inherited condition during your pregnancy.

Our services include information, education, risk assessment and diagnosis for a range of genetic medical conditions.

We may also offer genetic testing if the gene is relevant to your personal and family medical history.

You can access our services for free if you hold a Medicare or Asylum Seeker card.

To make a booking, please call 5124 7630 between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday and 8am to 3:30pm Wednesdays.

Please bring any information about your relevant health or family history to your appointment to ensure an accurate risk assessment.

Ongoing support after giving birth

For women living in the ACT, Queanbeyan or Jerrabomberra, we provide follow up care in the first few days after you give birth. A midwife will come to your home and offer individualised postnatal care, feeding and parenting support.

Our service is available seven days a week from 8:30am to 5pm. You may receive between one and three home visits from our service depending on your needs.

If you live outside of the ACT, Queanbeyan or Jerrabomberra, we encourage you to connect with your local health service or GP.

We also recommend planning your support at home before your baby is due. This may include:

  • booking leave for your partner or support person
  • having an approved baby car seat fitted in your family car
  • joining a support group or developing your own
  • cooking meals and storing them in the freezer for when you come home from hospital.

Our Maternal and Child Health (MACH) Clinic nurses are also here to support you with ongoing information and advice to help you get the best start to parenthood.

The MACH team will contact you to arrange the first appointment.

MACH clinics offer both booked and drop-in appointments, find out more here

For more information contact 5124 9977.

An early pregnancy and parenting support phone line has been established to support women with early pregnancy, maternal and child health, breastfeeding and emotional wellbeing concerns. You can call 5124 1775 from Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm. Please leave a voicemail with your name, best contact number and reason for your call and a health professional will call you back within one business day.

Looking after your mental health

Having a baby can be one of the most exciting and challenging things you ever do. Some days can be filled with joy, happiness and delight but other days you may feel anxious, overwhelmed and confused.

While it’s normal to feel tired, irritable and overwhelmed in your transition as a parent, some women can experience extreme depression and anxiety.

The Perinatal Mental Health Consultation Service is a consultation and liaison service that specialises in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of women who experience mental health before, during and after their pregnancy.

Our service is staffed by a Psychiatrist, Registrar, Psychologists and a Registered Nurse. 

For more information, please contact us on 02 5124 3133.

We don’t offer clinical management or provide crisis assessments. If you are concerned about your mental health, we encourage you to speak with your GP or MACH nurse or call the Access Mental Health Team on 1800 629 354.

You can also seek support from:

Useful contacts

Canberra Maternity Options

5124 9977

Telephone Interpreter Service

13 14 50

Calvary Public Hospital maternity reception

6201 6030

Centenary Hospital for Women and Children
for booking and scheduling of antenatal
appointments or childbirth education

5124 7625

Maternal and Child Health Clinic central intake

5124 9977

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service

6284 6222

Australian Breastfeeding Association

1800 686 268

Physiotherapy at Centenary Hospital

5124 5921

Domestic and family violence support

6280 0900

Karinya House

6259 8998

Mental health support

1800 629 354

Pregnancy, birth and baby helpline

1800 882 436

Smoking, alcohol and other drug support

5124 9977

Women’s legal services

6257 4499

Page last updated on: 22 Jan 2021