How long should I wait before going to hospital?

How long should I wait before I go to hospital when I am in labour?

The honest answer is how long is a piece of string, but that’s not very helpful so I wanted to share with you a couple of general rules of thumb.

Often first time mums are told to go to hospital when they experience three surges in ten minutes lasting about a minute. In the experience I’ve had working with clients all round the world and talking to midwives who have dealt with 100s or 1000s of births is that for first time mums, going to hospital at that stage can be a little bit early.

If not then, when?

You want to be getting there in established labour, four to five cms dilated. Therefore for 1st time mums you want to be experiencing four surges in ten minutes, lasting a minute, over a period of two hours. This means you are more likely to be in established labour which means statistically you’re less likely to need any type of intervention.

Obviously how far from your home the hospital is and how you are feeling make a big difference too.

Some people want the reassurance of getting a vaginal examination, they want to be told that everything looks ok and that they are doing great. If that’s you of course that’s absolutely fine! Go to the the hospital and get checked out.

Remember this:

What I will say to you is that a vaginal examination is just a moment in time. So if you have been surging for 12 hours and everything’s quite intense and you get to the hospital and they tell you that you’re only two cms dilated this is not the time to freak out and think “oh it’s never going to happen”.

You can go from two to eight cms in an hour – it is very very possible. If you’re one, two or three cms have a think about whether you would like to labour a little while longer in your own home environment.

We know from the research done that women labour more comfortably and that it tends to happen more quickly in their own environment.

When you transfer to hospital whether you’re four, seven or eight cms often things can slow down a little bit while the body adjusts to the new surroundings you are in. Plus, often the hospital environment is not that conducive to quicker, comfortable labour.

If you’re staying…

If it feels ok to you know that you can have a VE, go home and return.

If you are feeling like, “I’m here and I’m staying” really honour the feeling that you want to stay. Because I’ve known a lot of women be told “go home, you’re not nearly ready, there’s ages to go yet” and they end up going to the toilet with their partner and saying “I’m not going anywhere” and proceeding to have their baby on the bathroom floor.

They knew intuitively that thing were not going to stay as there were for very long.

You learn how to tune into your intuition by taking time out of your day and really connecting with your baby and your pregnancy body. It’s something we talk a lot about in The Calm Birth School. It’s much easier to tune into it when you have been practising during your pregnancy.

General rules of thumb for when to go to the hospital:

First time mothers – 4 surges in 10 minutes lasting a minute over 2 hours

Second (or more) time – 3 surges in 10 mins lasting 45 seconds to a minute is a great time to head to your medical providers or call them in if you’re having a home-birth


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