Deciding when to go to the hospital can cause laboring couples a lot of stress. If you get there too early, you may get sent home or you run the risk of labor slowing down or stopping. If you go in too late, you run the risk of not making it. So when is the best time?
Well, for most first time couples the chances of not making it to the hospital in time and delivering in the car or at home are pretty slim. That’s a much more likely scenario with subsequent births, but for most first timers labor is long enough and the signs are pretty clear when it is time to go. Here are the signs to look for:
- Contractions are strong. What does that look like? Mom has to stop during a contraction and pay attention to it. She can’t walk or talk through her contractions very easily and needs to do something to cope with them, like breathe and sway. Most likely at this point she will also not feel very comfortable sitting or lying down during a contraction.
- Contractions are long. Contractions can start to be considered long when they last close to 60 seconds. It can be good to get a contraction timer app so you can be accurate with this when it comes time to measure them.
- Contractions are close together. You don’t need to worry about timing the contractions with the app until you feel like the contractions are consistently under 6-8 minutes apart. It may make you feel better to start measuring earlier, but you shouldn’t do it if it stops you resting or keeping distracted with other activities until the contractions hit that 6-8 minute mark. Even then, you have time. You’re looking for the contractions to be 4-5 minutes apart and staying that way for at least one hour.
Put them all together and you get a simple formula: You don’t need to think about going to the hospital until after you have seen strong, long contractions that are 4-5 minutes apart for at least an hour. Once you reach that point, it’s time to think about making your move.
Pro tip: If discussing going to the hospital makes your contractions space back out, wait a little bit before going. If the stress of talking about going is enough to slow them down, then she is probably not quite ready.
Of course if your water breaks, you have a fever, excessive bleeding, sharp pain, or anything else you are worried about, be sure to call your doctor and get their opinion on when to go in.