When to Go to the Birth Center

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It’s Time! Or Is It?

You might think it would feel very obvious when something as dramatic as giving birth is about to begin. And for some moms, it is. But for many others, labor has a more subtle beginning. First-time moms might be especially anxious, wondering if what they’re feeling means labor is starting.

Unless you have a history of fast labors, you won’t necessarily need to rush to the hospital the minute you start feeling contractions. Early labor can last for many hours and is the least intense part of the process, so many moms like to spend that time at home. If you come in too soon, you might be sent back home anyway, or spend more time than is needed at the hospital.

However, if you’re feeling possible signs of labor before your 37th week of pregnancy, call your doctor or midwife right away.

A good plan is to start timing your contractions, which will become stronger, longer and closer together as labor progresses. A general rule is to come in when contractions happen about every five minutes and last about 60 seconds each. Get a sense of their rhythm, and call your doctor or midwife who can tell you when to come in. Of course, if you’re at a point where you can’t talk and have to stop what you’re doing during a contraction, it’s definitely time to come in. The same is true if you feel a gush or a steady leak of fluid.

Check out our Signs of Labor page for more details.