When you should go to the hospital if pregnant

Mandy, Midwife at The Baby Academy

Hopefully, you’ll have a happy and problem-free pregnancy but in the case where you think your unborn baby may be unwell, you should seek medical attention. The problem is, some women are unsure whether the niggles they feel are ‘ok’ or not.

To answer this question, it really depends on a few factors.  If your pregnancy is beyond 37 weeks and your planned mode of birth is vaginal as well as having uterine contractions – it is safe to say you may be in labour.  However, you want to ensure that the contractions you’re experiencing are “true labour” contractions as opposed to Braxton Hicks contractions.  You can try to determine what’s happening by understanding the difference between the two. If you have belly tightening & relaxing, lower abdominal cramping, pain that radiates to the lower back or inner thighs that is relieved by changing position, drinking lots of water, or taking a shower – you are likely experiencing false labour.  If nothing you do relieves the contraction pain – you are likely in one of the phases of labour.

It is quite normal for first-time mums & pregnant people to be in latent or early labour for a few days so you don’t want to rush to the hospital at the first signs of contractions.  Start timing your contractions once you’ve been experiencing them consistently & they’re unrelieved by palliative measures.  Before going to the hospital, you should consider the duration you have been in labour, note the time from the beginning of one contraction to the end of that same contraction.  As well as the frequency of your contractions, note the time from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next.

If this is your first labour & birth, follow what we call the 4-1-1 method, with contractions occurring every 4 minutes lasting 60 seconds or more for more than 1 hour, if you tick all these boxes, then you can come straight to the hospital. If you have laboured & birthed before & are experiencing contractions every 5 -7 minutes lasting a minute or more for more than an hour – it may be a good time for you to come in as well.

Other reasons to go into the hospital:

  • Your water breaks.  Whether you have pain or no pain you should go into the hospital.
  • Some vaginal bleeding in labour is normal & considered a good sign of labour progress.  Flow-like bleeding or bleeding like a period is never normal – call 911!
  • If you have concerns about your baby’s movements.  Be sure to follow the instructions given to activate movement but if you still don’t perceive improved movement – present to the hospital right away!
  • If you < 37 weeks & experiencing labour pain, your water has broken or you have vaginal bleeding.
  • If you are scheduled for a cesarean birth because vaginal birth is unsafe present to the hospital with labour pain, vaginal bleeding or if your water breaks.

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