When should I go to the hospital?

It’s the final countdown until the big day. There are likely many thoughts running through your head as you get closer to meeting your little one. Did I put that extra pair of socks in my hospital bag? What if my water breaks while I’m out for date night? What if I deliver in the car on the way to the hospital? Do I want to have an epidural? It is normal to experience a bit of anxiety as your due date approaches? You are not alone!

One decision that can be hard to make is when to go to the hospital during labor. The media bombards us with imagery suggesting that the moment your water breaks, you need to rush directly to the hospital. We’ve all seen movies and TV shows where the heroine ends up delivering in the cab, the hospital waiting room, or even the lobby of her apartment! In reality, labor progresses much slower than the media projects.

It is important to remember to slow down and count your contractions before making the ultimate call to head to the hospital. Early labor lasts much longer than you might think! Latent labor, or early labor, can last anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. Most women would rather stay at home during latent labor, where they are more comfortable. At home, you have the freedom to go on walks at your leisure, cuddle with your furbabies, and relax in a familiar setting. You should keep track of your contractions — how often they happen, how long they last, the intensity —  as this is a key indicator as to when you are transitioning into active labor. Ovia even has a handy contraction timer right here in the app! Doctors usually consider a true contraction to be one that you can’t talk through.

The rule of thumb that women often use to determine when they are in active labor is called the 3-1-1 rule. This rule means that contractions are happening every three minutes, each lasts a full minute, and they have been going on for an hour. At that point, call your hospital or provider and they can talk you through next steps.

You might think arriving at the hospital too late is the only thing you should try to avoid, but arriving too early should be avoided, too. The earlier you go to the hospital, the more likely you are to receive interventions that you may not need (or want). For example, studies suggest that women who come to the hospital too early are more likely to deliver via C-section.

Take a moment to organize your birth plan by talking to your peers, consulting your healthcare provider, and reading about what to expect on the day of delivery. This will hopefully help alleviate some of the nerves, and bring comfort and guidance, making the big day feel less overwhelming.

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