When to go to the hospital for labor
Labor, Pregnancy

When to go to the hospital for labor: signs that labor has begun

When should you go to the hospital, this question comes in the mind of all the women when they are near to their due date. It can be tricky to decide when to head to the hospital for labor—especially if you’re not sure that you are in labor. Towards the end of your pregnancy, your doctor or midwife will explain to you the right time to head to the hospital or birthing center. This will depend on the distance you have to travel, your previous deliveries, your health, and the state of your cervix.

What does contraction feel like?

If you’re a first-time mom, you might be having some anxiety near to your delivery day. It’s normal to think when labor might start and how contractions will feel like.

 When you have a contraction, your womb tightens and then relaxes. For some people, contractions may feel like extreme period pains. You may have had contractions throughout your pregnancy, particularly towards the end. During pregnancy, these painless tightening is called ‘Braxton Hicks’ contractions.

As labor progress your contractions tend to become longer, stronger and more frequent. During a contraction, the muscles in your womb contract and the pain increases. If you put your hand on your abdomen, you can feel it getting harder. When the muscles relax, the pain fades and your hand will feel the hardness ease. The contractions are pushing your baby down and opening your cervix (entrance to the womb) ready for your baby to go through.

Sign of labor to check before going to the hospital

hospital for labor

When you are near to due date, your body gives you some signals and signs of labor. The process of labor is different for each woman and you can feel your sign differently than other women or even different then your previous pregnancies also. Usually, the signs of labor are much more subtle and gradual.

Labor progresses in three stages: Early and active labor, childbirth stage and delivery of placenta. The early stage is the longest one where your cervix dilates from 1cm to 10cm and you can feel contraction in uterus which increases as the labor progress.

Here are some signs of labor to look for before going to the hospital.

  • Bloody discharge from vagina which is also called as a SHOW
  • Your contractions start coming more frequently maybe like a minute or two apart.
  • Your contractions is longer in duration and more painful
  • You have a lots of  back pain
  • Your water breaks
  • Your baby is not moving

What is the difference between true labor vs. false labor

Sometimes you may think you’re starting labor, but it’s just a false alarm. You might feel contractions, but your cervix is not dilating or effacing. Sometime false contractions come near to your due date which can be very confusing. False labor contractions are also called Braxton-Hicks contractions.

Here are some of the difference between true contractions and false contractions which you should check before going to the hospital.

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  • False contraction feels better after walking but true contractions don’t feel better after walking
  • False contractions don’t increase over the time but true contractions get intense as the labor progress.
  • When you are having false contractions, the interval between each contraction is almost same but if you are in true labor, interval between each contraction keeps decreasing as the labor progress.
  • During true labor contractions you can have bloody discharge from vagina. In false contractions there is no blood.
  • False contractions are generally only at the front. True contractions begin at the back and move to the front.

What is the 511 rule of labor?

A simple rule to check when you should go to the hospital is 511 rule of labor. According to that you may be in active labor if your contractions happen at least every 5 minutes, last for 1 minute each, and have been happening consistently for at least 1 hour. Timing is the best way to check whether you are in true labor or not. You keep track of how often your contractions are coming, how long each one lasts, and how long they have been following the defined pattern.

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Timing your contractions before going to the hospital while labor

Timing your contractions will help you to know whether you are in labor or not. You can time your contraction before going to the hospital to check whether it’s true labor or false. Start timing your contractions when they get stronger or closer together. You can use a watch with a second hand or a mobile phone app. Your midwife will probably tell you to stay at home until your contractions are frequent.

labor pain

When to go to the hospital for labor?

Your doctor/midwife will provide you specific information about when to come to the hospital. This will depend on the distance you have to travel, your previous deliveries, your health, and the state of your cervix.

You should go to the hospital if you are not sure whether you are in false labor or true labor. It is always to be cautious and it’s good for you and your baby both. Once you are at hospital, your doctor will tell you whether you are in true labor or false labor.

Timing is everything and starts timing your contractions once you feel a few in a row. Count the time between contractions from the start of one to the start of the next.

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If this is your first baby, go to the hospital when you are in true labor and contractions comes every 3 to 5 minutes over an hour-long period and Last at least 45 to 60 seconds. If you are comfortable at home, stay at home. This stage may last for several hours. You can go back to the hospital when you aren’t comfortable any more.

If you’ve given birth before, go the hospital when your contractions come every 5 to 7 minute and last at least 45 to 60 seconds. If you had a fast labor the last time, go as soon as your contractions are regular or you aren’t comfortable any more.

Signs of labor you should not ignore and go to the hospital immediately

Labor progress in stages but there are still some signs that you should look for and never ignore. If you experience any of the below symptoms of labor than you should not wait and go to hospital immediately.

  • Your water breaks down
  • You have bloody vaginal discharge
  • You feel the urge to bear down and push
  • If you are having contractions according to 511 rule and this is not your first pregnancy.
  • You no longer feel your baby movement.

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