When to go to the hospital during pregnancy

The answer to this question depends on a few factors.  If your pregnancy is beyond 37 weeks, your planned mode of birth is vaginal, your baby’s head is down & you’re having uterine contractions – it is safe to be in labor.  You want to ensure that the contractions you’re experiencing are “True labor” contractions.  If you have belly tightening & relaxing, lower abdominal cramping, pain that radiates to the lower back or inner thighs that is relieved by changing position, drinking lots of water, or taking a shower – you are likely experiencing false labor.  If nothing you do relieves the contraction pain – you are likely in one of the phases of labor.  

It is quite normal for first time mums & pregnant people to be in latent or early labor for a few days so you don’t want to rush to the hospital at the first signs of contractions.  Start timing your contractions once you’ve been experiencing them consistently & they’re unrelieved by palliative measures.  There are 2 things to consider when counting your contractions – duration & frequency.  

  • To calculate the duration, note the time from the beginning of one contraction to the end of that same contraction.  
  • To calculate the frequency, note the time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next.  

If this is your first labor & birth, come to the hospital with contractions occurring every 4 minutes lasting 60 secs or more for more than 1 hour.  This method is sometimes referred to as the 4-1-1 method.  If you have labored & birthed before & are experiencing contractions every 5 -7 minutes lasting a minute or more for more than an hour – it may be a good time for you to come in as well.  

Other reasons to go into the hospital:

  • Your water breaks.  Whether you have pain or no pain you should go into the hospital.  
  • Some vaginal bleeding in labor is normal & considered a good sign of labor progress.  Flow-like bleeding or bleeding like a period is never normal – call 911!
  • If you have concerns about your baby’s movements.  Be sure to follow the instructions given to activate movement but if you still don’t perceive improved movement – present to the hospital right away!
  • If you < 37 weeks & experiencing labor pain, your water has broken or you have vaginal bleeding.
  • If you are scheduled for a cesarean birth because a vaingal birth is unsafe present to the hospital with labor pain, vaginal bleeding or if your water breaks.

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