Are You In Labor? When to Go to the Hospital

pregnant woman

A crucial moment leading up to the birth of your baby is when you decide to go to the hospital. Going too soon or even too late could be the difference between having the birth you want and having unwanted medical interventions. So you have to know when it's really time to go.

I had a chat with Samantha Huggins, DONA certified birth doula and one of the directors at Carriage House Birth in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to get her trusted advice on this critical time so mamas-to-be are well informed. To know is to be empowered. To be empowered gives you a better chance of having a beautiful birth experience. Here's what Samantha and I put together to guide you through your contractions during early labor and help you decide when to go to the hospital.

  • If you are hoping to spend as little time in the hospital as possible, go in when contractions are 3 minutes apart and lasting a minute in length for at least one hour. You are less likely to be able to get an epidural in this scenario. Many women show up so far along that they "miss their window." Of course, you'll want to talk with your midwife or doctor about this.
  • If you are hoping to get to the hospital and be active enough that an epidural won't slow things down too too much, then get to an abundant 5 minutes.       
  • The most important part is that these contractions last for a GENUINE minute. I am always telling my clients and students that 58 seconds does not count; 59 seconds, does not count. One minute, 65 seconds, those count. And mama has to maintain it. For a real hour.  Not contractions that are a minute long and 4 minutes apart for 30 minutes and then they spaced back out to 10 minutes apart for a little while  and then they get stronger again at the end.  Unfortunately, that gap means your starting the timing over. A note to the partner, I wouldn't share these blips with the laboring mama, it would be very discouraging. Share it with your doula if you have one instead!     
  • If they are shorter than a minute, it’s not time to go to hospital yet. If you go to hospital too soon, they will want to progress your labor unnaturally and then you could end up in an emergency situation for no reason. Or if they are really busy, they might send you home, which is actually pretty damn awful, too.     
  • Stay home as long as possible. It is more comfortable to labor at home in familiar surroundings than the hospital.     
  • Early labor can last many hours so don't become exhausted. During early labor, you can eat, drink, walk, rock, pee, and take a shower. I always say, don't pull out the big guns in early labor -- try to stay distracted or if possible, sleep even!
  • This rest is important between contractions. Labor is like running a marathon. Save your energy spurt for when you are in active labor. 

Consult your doctor or midwife, especially if you have a specific medical condition or have a high risk pregnancy.

3rd trimester delivery labor & delivery labor