When to Go To Hospital in Labor

Pregnancy is a joyous time, and as the due date draws near, even experienced moms start stressing over the start of labor. This is because there are many signs of early labor, some of which can be easily misunderstood and some are too vague to be clear. Women who are expecting a new addition to the family should understand that if they are carrying a full-term baby and have not had their water break, the following cues may be helpful in their understanding of when to go to hospital in labor.

Know The Progression of Labor

Every mother must be worried about the coming of labor, and there are some instructions to help you know more about it:

How Does It Begin?

Anywhere between 38 weeks and 42 weeks of pregnancy, the estrogen in a woman's body rises. Then, the other two hormones oxytocin and prostaglandin tell your body to begin contractions. The size of the uterus and pressure from the baby's head on the cervix all work together to get labor started.

Interestingly, an urge to get everything in its place and the tendency to feel spaced out or dreamy are both indications that labor may be drawing near. There may also be a heavy mucous discharge.

Two Stages of Labor: False Labor vs. True Labor

  • False Labor

Women begin to experience contractions in the last few months of their pregnancy. They may become concerned, convinced they are starting labor and head to the hospital, only to find out these are Braxton-Hicks contractions and are the body's way of practicing for the big event. Typically, this type of contractions has no real rhythm and is not at regular intervals. Try to get rest during this period and allow your body to do what it needs to do, as this is preparation for both your body and the baby growing inside to handle labor and delivery.

  • True Labor

Contractions that become more intense and regular may be signs real labor is starting. When there are intervals of 15 to 20 minutes between contractions, it is time to pay attention. Those intervals will get progressively shorter, and when they are only 5 minutes, delivery is in the near future.

To figure out if you are experiencing false labor or true labor and decide when to go to hospital in labor, consider the following:

Contraction Presentation

False Labor

True Labor


Irregular or do not get progressively closer together

Can be timed, last about 30-70 seconds and get closer together as time goes on

Movement Affects Them?

Stop if you walk or rest, and may stop if you change positions

Continue no matter what position you are in or if you walk around


Weak and do not get stronger; may seem strong and get weaker

Increase in strength

Pain Felt

Felt in front of abdomen or pelvis

Start in lower back, move to front of abdomen

When to Go to Hospital in Labor

There are some signs that tell you: it is time to go to hospital. These issues include:

1. When You Have Strong, Regular Contractions

It can be hard to determine what a real contraction feels like, particularly if this is your first experience with pregnancy and labor. However, the main consideration is whether they are lasting one minute typically or more and if they are consistent. Even for those that get to four minutes apart for 30 minutes, and then space back out to 10 minutes apart, that is Braxton-Hicks and generally not hospital worthy.

  • For those who are having their first baby, it is a good idea to head to the hospital when the contractions are around five minutes apart or when the discomfort of labor becomes too much to bear at home.
  • For those having their second baby, it is a good idea to head to the hospital when the contractions are around seven minutes apart.

2. When Your Water Breaks

If you notice you have liquid running down your leg, it is a good time to put a pad on. If that pad gets very wet or if it becomes tinged with blood or a green color, those are indications your water has broken. That is a good time to get in touch with the doctor or midwife and start making plans for the baby's delivery. Labor may not start immediately, even if your water has broken. It is a good idea to have medical professionals check the baby to make sure everything is still progressing fine. Then, you can choose to wait or have starting labor.

Note: Vaginal discharge can become quite heavy toward the end of the pregnancy. It can be milky in color and can actually run down the leg or thoroughly wet the undergarments. Therefore, if this happens and it dries like egg white, it is not an indication of your water breaking.

3. Other Symptoms That You Can't Wait

Other indications about when to go to hospital in labor immediately are:

  • If you are past due date
  • If there is bleeding comparable to a period
  • If you are carrying twins or multiples
  • If the baby is breech
  • If you have had a baby before and the first labor was two to three hours in duration
  • If you tested positive for Group B Strep and need antibiotics
  • If you are experiencing high levels of anxiety about your labor

The following video explains more signs of labor that answers when to go to hospital in labor:

What to Expect When You Arrive at the Hospital

The first thing that will happen when you arrive at the hospital is a nurse will check you in, then check vital signs like your temperature and blood pressure. Next, there may be a monitor placed on your belly to check on the baby;s vitals. A vaginal exam will then be done to see how dilated and effaced you are. From there, it is a matter of preference and hospital. It can typically involve a lot of waiting.

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