After 9 long months, women may wonder when to head to the hospital for delivery. Although there is no way to predict exactly when the baby will come, most arrive close to 40 weeks. Consistent contractions and water breaking are signs of labor that shouldn’t be ignored. Other concerns, such as bleeding or decreased fetal movement, require further assessment.
The 5-1-1 rule
Many healthcare providers will remind patients to follow the 5-1-1 rule when the due date is approaching. Mild contractions can happen occasionally leading up to delivery. However, labor is likely imminent when the contractions become consistent, happening every 5 minutes. When a pattern emerges, start timing the contractions. If the tightening sensation lasts 1 minute or more for at least 1 hour, the pregnant woman should head to the hospital. The 5-1-1 rule is the gold standard for avoiding false labor and showing up when the baby is actually on the way.
Did my water break?
Although water breaking is a common occurrence in movies, the reality is that most women don’t experience this sign of labor. For women who do, the slow leaking of amniotic fluid can often be confused with accidentally urinating. However, when the water has broken, getting to the hospital right away is important, even if contractions haven’t started. Most doctors want to deliver the baby within 24 hours of the water breaking to prevent infection.
Cause for concern
Decreased fetal movement is a serious concern to keep an eye out for in the latter part of pregnancy. Although some moments of calm are expected, if the patient doesn’t feel at least 10 kicks in 2 hours, the OB/GYN or midwife may recommend going to the hospital to be monitored. Depending on what is seen on the ultrasound, delivery may need to occur immediately. Any unusual bleeding or cramping are other reasons to contact the doctor for assessment.
Pack up and go
Once a woman identifies that labor has started, getting to the hospital safely is the priority. Put on comfortable clothes, grab the hospital bag, and check the quickest route. Upon arrival, inform the front desk about any labor symptoms, including 5-1-1 contractions. After being admitted, the woman will be checked for dilation, confirming labor is in progress.
Wait and see
If the 5-1-1 rule is followed, most women will be admitted to the hospital upon arrival. However, in some cases, the doctor may decide more time is needed and send the patient home. While disheartening, returning home to labor in comfort can often be the best decision. Once contractions pick up or other signs of labor appear, a trip back to the hospital is in order.
Let’s have a baby
As a pregnant woman nears 40 weeks, apprehension about labor and delivery is common. Knowing what symptoms to expect can decrease anxiety. Baby will come when ready, but having a plan in place to know when to head to the hospital is essential.