- The best way to determine if it’s time to go to the hospital is to keep track of your contractions and time them out.
- Once contractions are less than 5 minutes apart consistently for one hour, that’s when it’s time to go to the hospital.
- If you’re not sure about the timing of your contractions, another sign it’s time to go to the hospital is when you have difficulty speaking during contractions.
“I think my water just broke.” For some, this can be one of the most exhilarating and frightening signs that they’re about to give birth. But it’s not the only sign that labor has begun. Here’s how to tell when is the right time to go to the hospital and deliver your baby.
When you should go to the hospital for labor
According to Micah Garb, MD, FACOG, an obstetrician at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, the onset of labor can start with either your water breaking or painful contractions.
When your water breaks, it means that the amniotic sac holding your baby in the uterus has ruptured. Typically, this may start contractions or make them stronger if they have already begun.
Some doctors estimate that fewer than 15% of women will experience their water breaking before labor starts. So if you’re experiencing contractions, but haven’t felt the gush of water, labor may have started already.
The best way to determine if it’s time to go to the hospital is to keep track of your contractions and time them out. According to Garb, when contractions are further than five minutes apart, it is okay to stay home – this is the early part of labor and many stay home during this time as it can last around 12 to 20 hours.
Once contractions are less than 5 minutes apart consistently for one hour, that’s when it’s time to go to the hospital.
If you’re not sure about the timing of your contractions, here are some other signs it’s time to go to the hospital.
- Difficulty speaking. You’re having a hard time talking through your contractions because of the pain. “For the vast majority of patients, the contractions that indicate labor are very painful. It is quite difficult to talk during ‘real’ uterine contractions,” Garb says. “When in doubt, it is worth checking in with your provider to confirm.”
- A decrease in the frequency of baby movement. The baby may become less active. However, you should still feel the baby move and may even experience kicks. “You should feel approximately 10 kicks every 2 hours until delivery,” says Dr. Garb. You’ll feel the kicks in the lower abdomen as the baby moves toward the birth canal.
If you are concerned about any symptoms that you may be experiencing in early labor, it is always best to contact your healthcare provider.