Labor: When Should I Go to the Hospital?
Most physicians and midwives suggest contacting them when your contractions are five minutes apart and lasting 60 seconds, and you have had this activity for about an hour. When you reach your doctor or midwife, be prepared to tell him/her:
- how far apart the contractions are, their length and intensity, and if you are using breathing techniques.
- whether or not the bag of water has broken, the time it broke, and the color of the fluid.
- if a bloody show is present.
You will be instructed when to leave for the hospital. If you are a first-time mother and are able to manage the contractions at home, new research is suggesting that first-time mothers should continue to stay at home until it is difficult to breathe through the contractions. However, if you live a great distance from the hospital, are concerned about not getting there on time or have other special concerns, plan on leaving sooner.
What to Expect at the Hospital
You will need to present a picture ID (driver's license or other ID) when you arrive at OB Reception. After you are checked in, a nurse will check your blood pressure, temperature, may obtain both blood and urine samples, and place devices on your abdomen that monitor the baby's heart rate and your contractions. The nurse, your on-call physician, or midwife will then perform a vaginal exam to evaluate the dilation and effacement of your cervix. It is best to be admitted when active labor begins, especially if you are a first-time mother. In active labor, the contractions are less than five minutes apart, lasting 45-60 seconds and the cervix is dilated three centimeters or more.
Depending on your stage of labor, contraction pattern, how far dilated you are and fetal heart tracing, your physician or midwife may admit you to the hospital, or suggest returning home until the contractions are closer together. In the event you are in early labor and sent home, it is common to feel disappointed, maybe even embarrassed. Activities such as walking, showering, resting, drinking fluids, renting a video, or listening to music, can be very helpful in early labor.
If you are admitted and have had a positive culture for Group B Beta Strep during your pregnancy, or have any risk factors, you will receive antibiotics prior to delivery.