So you’re having a hospital birth but would like to minimize your chance of intervention, being put “on the clock,” or sent back home!
What can you do to avoid this? When is it time to go to the hospital?
Regardless of your choice of delivery setting, if you are able to go into labor on your own (i.e. you don’t have a scheduled surgical birth), it is usually best to labor at home until you have moved from early labor to active/established labor.The following applies only when you do not have reason to seek care immediately and you don’t have a history of rapid delivery
1) What are the contractions doing?
The first rule of thumb is to ignore them until you can’t ignore them any longer!
This may look different for different people.
- Are you able to distract yourself?
- Can you rest/sleep between contractions?
- Can you work, do a project around the house, distract yourself with shopping, watch a movie, etc?
2) Is baby moving normally?
When is it time to go?
Regularity of contractions:
First-time moms: Contractions are 4/1/1
- Contractions are no more than 4 minutes apart, each lasting 1 full minute* for at least 1 hour
Baby #2 or more: Contractions are 5/1/1
- Contractions are no more than 5 minutes apart, each lasting 1 minute* for at least 1 hour; they are regular, not having one 5 minutes, then 6 minutes, back to 5 minutes and then 7-8 minutes apart.
*While some people round up on contraction length, there are others who only count the peak or how long the contraction is painful for…you need to time the contraction from the beginning of uterine tightening until the contraction is over.
TIP: Download an app on your phone! SO much simpler and user-friendly than pencil/paper!
Intensity of contractions
- You’d rate contraction intensity as a 7 or higher on a pain scale of 0-10
- With 10 being the WORST pain you’ve experienced and you’re on the cusp of sawing off an appendage. (but you DON’T ;-))
- I’d say this is the most speculative as MANY first time moms originally report a 6 when I’m doing a labor assessment and then well after the baby is born and we are doing a recap, they laugh and say, “I didn’t know how intense it was going to be; looking back, I’d call that a 3!!”
- You can no longer laugh, walk or in other ways distract yourself from the intensity of each contraction during the contraction
Remember, most first-time moms have between an 18 – 24 hour labor from first labor sign until delivery. There are of course exceptions, but generally speaking, this means you have time.
Are you overwhelmed or confused by what to look for or do?
Having a labor support person, specifically a doula or other trained birth attendant, can be invaluable. They can be your first resource and have a few tips/tricks and tools to help with your comfort and progression. You may also want to consider enlisting the services of a monitrice (think, “doula+”), who can perform cervical checks and monitor vital signs of mom and baby.