Many care providers will tell you to follow the 5-1-1 or 4-1-1 guidelines: call or go to the hospital when your contractions are consistently 5 (or 4) minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute each, for at least an hour. But these guidelines could mean that you are at the hospital earlier than you had want, especially if it’s your first baby.
Review the following questions to formulate your plan for when to go to the hospital in labor. Talk it over with your care provider and birth support team for feedback.
What are your goals? Do you want to stay in the comfort of your own home as long as possible in labor? Or, do you feel more comfortable in the hospital setting? Are you seeking a low intervention birth? Or, are you planning on having an epidural for pain relief? Knowing your goals for labor will help you decide how long to labor at home.
Ask for professional feedback while in labor. If you’ve hired a doula or if your doctor or midwife knows about your wishes to labor at home as long as possible, check in with them once you’re in a good labor pattern. Talk to them for a 10-15 minutes, whilst having a few contractions, so they can help assess where you are in labor and whether or not you should go into the hospital.
Take note of what’s happening between contractions. As your labor progresses closer to transition (7/8 cm dilation), you will most likely begin to decrease your activity between your contractions. Prior to this point, you may feel like walking, talking, and moving around in between contractions. When you stop feeling the ability to be mobile in between contractions, you may want to consider going to the hospital.
Listen to your gut. Sure, you can take an “Are you in labor?” quiz online, but don’t overlook the most important guidance you have: your intuition or “gut feeling.” When in labor, take a few moments to sit quietly by yourself and find out what your gut is telling you. Many people who’ve had babies will tell you, “You’ll just know.” And usually, it’s true.