Hospital Time! How to Know When During Those Contractions You Need to Get Going

In my last post, I discussed false labor and how to determine the difference between when it was the real thing. Now, I’m going to discuss when you should be leaving for the hospital.

Most of us really don’t know when that is. Take my own experiences, for example. When I had my eldest, my water burst all over my desk chair while I was on my computer. This kind of breakage is quite rare though most Rom-Coms will have you think otherwise.

When your water breaks, you’ll need to get to the hospital. If you have a slow leak of amniotic fluid, you might want to call first to see about timing. If you gush as I did, you need to leave immediately. That fluid is what protects your baby, and you will need to be monitored.

For me,

I didn’t start having my contractions until several hours after I arrived at the hospital. This was a good thing considering that my husband and I had to flag down a taxi to take us there and I couldn’t imagine anything worse than the leaking mess I was making.

The taxi driver that finally stopped was a woman, and although I didn’t understand Chinese very well at the time, I knew she was protesting about me ruining her seat covers. I had a thick towel with me, and once she saw that, she hit the accelerator and sped us along to the hospital where I was quickly put into a wheelchair and hauled off to a room for observation.

And while I had those contractions, I hadn’t dilated even close to enough to attempt delivery.

Again, my experience with my youngest was different.

I got those contractions and they were 15 minutes apart to start with. Then they became closer together, but this took HOURS.

So, you’re likely wondering when do I go to the hospital, Leslie?!?

Don’t worry…like always, I’ve got you covered. Below, I’m going to discuss the scenarios with contractions first and then water breaking.

How far apart should contractions be before you go to the hospital?

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Before we continue, I encourage you to read my post about false labor and how to know if you’re really in labor. You should be in your last month of pregnancy, ideally toward the end of things. It CAN happen that you go into labor early (premature birth), but it is a rare scenario. Here are the early signs for you.

Still, if you’re not close to your due date and you are sure you’re going into labor, call your doctor immediately.

Let’s talk about these contractions. Let’s say you’ve been watching them closely, noting the time, duration, and intensity of them.

If you’re sure you’re in labor, you should get going when those contractions are between 3 and 5 minutes apart over the course of a full hour. Timing is essential…it should be from the beginning of the contraction to the beginning of the next contraction.

Your contractions should last from 45 to 60 seconds. Anything shorter than that is typically false labor, but again, take note, and you’ll see a pattern for the real thing.

Additionally, experts advise that if you can’t walk or even talk while these contractions are coming on, it’s probably best to make your way to the hospital. When walking around your home, you may find these become even stronger, which is another sign.

How soon should you go to the hospital after your water breaks?

If you have my kind of situation, don’t hesitate to get to the hospital immediately. But if your water is merely trickling, you might want to call the doctor first to ask what he or she advises. This is especially wise if you haven’t had any contractions yet. You may need to be examined to see what’s going on with your cervix so you could wind up going to your OB/GYN office instead.

When your water breaks, it’s very important to note what time it is. You should also look at the fluid. Was it clear? Discolored? Be sure to tell your doctor this as well as how much came out.

Most importantly, you should use a maxi pad or a towel to sop up the fluids. Don’t put anything up inside of you. Now is not the time for last-minute sex with the hubby, and please do not use tampons!

One last important note on when to go to the hospital for labor…

Now, you can time your contractions and all, but for some of you, you might need to leave sooner rather than later. It all depends how far your home (or wherever you happen to be when you go into labor) is from the hospital or birth center where you’ll deliver your sweet baby.

I know things are a bit different in China, but we were about 30 minutes from our hospital when there’s no traffic. Fortunately, for my eldest, my water broke in the afternoon just after lunch, so the traffic wasn’t too bad. But for my youngest, when we left the house, it was morning rush hour.

Each of us lives in different places, so if you’re rural and far from the hospital, you might want to square this away with your doctor well before you ever go into labor. Ask when they think you should get going from your location, and you’ll have better peace of mind. Good luck, Mama!

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