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When Should I Go To The Hospital

When should I go to the hospital?

Once labour starts, it's natural to want to head to the hospital and get things moving! But if you arrive too early you might be asked to go home again, so it's worth waiting until you really think it's time. This section will help you decide when you need to contact your doctor or simply jump in the car and get to the hospital!

Getting the timing right

Everybody's labour is different so there's no hard and fast rule about when to go to the hospital. Generally, it's best to call your doctor or the hospital first so they can assess whether they think it's time for you to go in.

• If this is your first baby, you should call when your contractions are 5 minutes apart and lasting around 30 or 40 seconds. They'll probably tell you to make your way to the hospital very soon. Do consider travel distance and traffic conditions as this will impact how long it takes to get to the hospital.

• For second, third or later babies, you should call when your contractions are roughly 7 minutes apart. If you've had a long labour before, your doctor might tell you to wait until they're closer together. But if you've had any problems during labour in the past, or needed a caesarean, your doctor might advise you to call her before you've got to the 7 minute stage. 

What your doctor will want to know

The reason to call before going to the hospital is so that your doctor can listen to your breathing and your voice while you're having a contraction. Your doctor will be able to get an idea of the strength of your contractions and how you're coping by the changes in your voice. 

• Your doctor will ask you how you're doing and when you last felt your baby move. 

• How long the contractions have been happening, how far apart they are and how long they last.

• If your water has broken or you have any vaginal discharge or bleeding. 

• Your doctor will then advise you whether or not to go in or wait a bit longer. 

Signs that you should call your doctor or hospital straight away

If any of the following happens, you should get in touch with your doctor or hospital. If you aren't able to call, head straight there so that they can make sure everything is ok and give you the attention you need. Don't be afraid to call for an ambulance if you're on your own and unable to get to the hospital yourself.

• If you're less than 37 weeks pregnant and are feeling contractions.

• If you haven't felt your baby move for around 8 – 10 hours or there have been less than 10 movements in any 24 hour period.

• If your contractions are too strong for you to cope with.

Could it be a false alarm?

Before you've experienced the real thing, the practice labour pains of Braxton Hicks can make you think your baby's almost ready to make their big entrance.