When should I go to the hospital?
I have good news and bad news. The good news: there’s no wrong or right time to go to the hospital. The bad news? There’s no wrong or right time to go to the hospital. The best way for Blissful Birthing’s doulas to answer our clients’ question of “when should I go to the hospital?” is to ask them several questions in response. And we apologize in advance about that because we know how frustrating it can be when a question is answered with a question.
But first, Blissful Birthing’s official stance on when you should go to the hospital is:
Speak with your OB/GYN or midwife to determine when
you should get to the hospital. If you have tested positive
for Group B Strep, you will want to disregard the rest of this
blog and strictly follow the advice of your healthcare team.
Is it time to go to the hospital?
Though there are some general guidelines you can adhere to, a lot depends on your personal medical situation and your preferences and goals for the birth of your child. Do you desire to to stay home as long as possible? Then you may want to wait until 5-1-1 or 4-1-1. What do those numbers mean?
Contractions 5 (or 4) minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute in duration, with that pattern continuing for 1 hour.
Which you decide will depend on:
- how far away you live from the hospital.
- what time of day it is when you’re in labor and how the traffic tends to be.
Why do we recommend waiting until your contractions are 5-1-1 (or 4-1-1)? Typically by that time your body has gotten into a good rhythm. Unless your labor is progressing more quickly than average, this still gives you enough time when you arrive at the hospital for the nurses to take your vitals, get a solid reading of baby’s heartbeat, and for you to get settled. If you are planning on getting an epidural there’s a good chance you’ll still have time.
Our favorite way to time contraction is not with any fancy or complicated smartphone app. It is with your phone’s “stopwatch” feature. Super simple to use, can be done if you are alone, and provides a summary of the information. What do I mean? Well when you’re getting the first contraction that you are going to time, hit the Start button. When the next contraction begins, hit Lap. Do not worry about marking down when the contraction has ended. The Lap times will show you how much time elapsed from the start of one contraction to the start of the next, and the time that is being displayed will give a total count of how long you have been timing your contractions.
Are you open to or planning on getting an epidural?
If yes, you will want to head to the hospital a bit sooner (think contractions 6-7 minutes apart). Ideally you want to have a good labor pattern happening before you get your epidural as they can sometimes slow down contractions. If you wait too long to go to the hospital and you want an epidural you may:
- have contractions that are too close together for you to sit still long enough for the anesthesiologist to place the catheter.
- not be able to sit straight/lie on your back for long enough to allow the medication to evenly distribute to both legs.
Keep in mind that if you are planning on getting an epidural you will need to have received at least one liter of IV fluid before the anesthesiologist can begin. Epidurals can cause blood pressure to drop and getting IV fluid into your body before the epidural can help counteract that drop. If you are interested in reading more about epidurals, we will link our blog on them below.
How are you getting to the hospital?
Will a friend or family member be driving you? Or will you be calling a taxi/Uber/Lyft? If you are relying on an outside source for transportation, keep in mind the time of day and the demand for rides at that time.
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E is for Epidural
This blog is for informational purposes only. It does not take the place of consultation with your medical provider.