When It’s Time to Go to the Hospital

Labor usually begins within two weeks before or after your estimated due date, but no one knows exactly when babies will come. If you’re approaching your due date, you’ll want to watch for these signs of labor:

  • Bloody show – A small amount of mucus, slightly mixed with blood, may be expelled from the vagina. This is also known as the mucus plug.
  • Contractions – Contractions, or uterine muscle spasms, that occur less than 10 minutes apart are usually a sign that labor has begun. They’ll become more frequent and severe as labor progresses.
  • Rupture of the amniotic sac – Labor sometimes begins when your “water breaks,” or when amniotic fluid gushes or leaks from the vagina. If this happens, go to the hospital immediately and contact your doctor or midwife.

When should I go to the hospital?

When your contractions come regularly every four to five minutes and last for about a minute, it’s time to call your doctor or midwife. He or she will ask questions to determine when you should head to the hospital.

If you’re experiencing Braxton-Hicks contractions (sometimes called practice or false labor), you may not need to go to the hospital. Braxton-Hicks contractions are described as:

  • Irregular
  • More uncomfortable than painful
  • Don’t increase in frequency or intensity
  • Go away when changing positions or activities

If you’re scheduled for a cesarean section or an induction, we’ll give you information ahead of time about when to go the hospital.

What do I need to do before I come to the hospital?

Pre-register ahead of time so you can focus on your baby, not the paperwork, on delivery day.

What should I bring to the hospital?

Only five percent of babies actually arrive on their due dates. Since you never know when you’ll go into labor, having a bag packed and ready to go ahead of time is always a good idea.

Your bag should include:

  • Baby book for footprints
  • Baby outfit
  • Basic toiletries
  • Bra (nursing bra if you intend to breastfeed)
  • Camera and batteries
  • Car seat
  • Food for support person
  • Hat and booties (depending on the weather)
  • Lip balm
  • Loose-fitting underwear and clothing to wear home
  • Lotion, aromatherapy or other supplies for labor
  • Nursing pads
  • Phone numbers of people to call after the birth
  • Robe, slippers and warm, brightly colored socks
  • Water bottle for mother and partner

Please leave your car seat and baby belongings in your car until after delivery.

What does the hospital supply?

The hospital will provide:

  • A small tube of lanolin or comfort gels
  • Baby T-shirts
  • Disposable diapers
  • Hair dryers
  • Maxi pads and disposable underwear
  • Nightgowns, although you may bring your own (If you’re planning to breastfeed, you may want a nightgown that opens in the front)
  • Receiving blankets
  • Washcloths

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