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When Should You Go To Hospital In Labour?

Your contractions may become too strong to remain at home, you have been contracting for 1 hour, every 4 minutes with each contraction lasting about 1 minute. Your Water breaks! Lots of things can happen. At the end of the day, you’ll likely be wondering:

When Should I Go to Hospital In Labour?

This is a common question from many new moms so we thought we would share some general information about when to go to the hospital in labour!⁣

To begin with, ask your provider. Every hospital has different guidelines and we don’t want to be leading you astray with the information we provide. (The below guidelines are not for ANY complications. For the purpose of this post, we’re talking about normal labour and how to decipher whether you are in or close to active labour, there are lots of other reasons you need to go to the hospital, not listed here.)⁣

Most healthcare providers in labour and delivery will say to come in “once active labour has started“, but what does that look like exactly?⁣

⁣When should you go to the hospital with contractions?

The 4-1-1 rule and the 5-1-1 rule.⁣

Traditionally the 5-1-1 rule is used; that is, when contractions come every 5 minutes, each lasting a full minute, and have been that way for an hour. More recent recommendations are 4-1-1 (four minutes apart) or even 3-1-1 (three minutes apart). However, listen to your body and trust your instincts.

Labour contractions 4-1-1 or 5-1-1 Rule

4 (or 5): Contractions every 4 minutes.⁣
1 Contraction lasting 1 minute.⁣
1 This pattern continues for 1 hour.⁣

If your contractions become unbearably painful at any time you might be in active labour and should go get checked out.

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This one is vaguer because everyone will experience pain a little differently! But if you’ve been in early labour for a while and all of a sudden things get really intense? Well, then it’s time to head in!⁣

Lastly, if your water breaks during early labour at home you should go get checked out! If you are NOT in active labour and your water breaks, remember you can refuse that vaginal exam!

Vaginal exams with ruptured membranes increase your risk for infection and if you’re not contracting you’re likely not dilating, so there’s no need for that vaginal exam. Remember, everything is optional, informed consent is the name of the game 😊⁣

When did you go into the hospital or birth centre? Did they send you home or admit you?⁣

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18 Comments

  1. My waters broke suddenly at 36 weeks at 1am in bed and I had a few sporadic cramps before going into hospital. I declined an examination ‘to check your waters have gone’ because a) I knew they’d gone since they’d soaked our bed! and b) because I knew it could increase the risk of infection. The doctor wasn’t impressed and even less so when we insisted on going home after a few hours of monitoring with a machine. Baby was born at home 8 hours later and not once did I have contractions every 3, 4 or 5 minutes! Very random but I was glad because I got the homebirth I wanted! 😁

  2. For second(/+) time moms, I’ve heard they’ve often upped the recommendation to 7-1-1 instead of 4-1-1 because you can labor much faster. I am glad a friend told me that, or babe would have been born in the car! As it stands, she was an RN delivery because I progressed so quickly. Less than 7 hour labor from very first contraction to baby in arms.

  3. I had no clue I was having contractions until I laid down with my daughter for bed. I was feeling uncomfortable that I wasn’t sure I could sleep well. I got out the timer for the first time, and started timing. The first couple were 3:50 apart, and the next was 2:30 apart. It kept getting smaller, and my silly self thought that they were supposed to be in regular intervals 😅 so I kept timing away, and when my daughter was asleep I left the room and told my husband it might be time soon, and we should call the babysitter. When they got there we drove to the hospital (5 minutes away, thank goodness), and within 30 minutes, the baby was there! It was so fast! Glad we left when we did!

  4. When I arrived at hospital I was already 10cm dilated and needing to push. In hindsight I maybe should have left home half hour earlier. I’m a little worried for this time that I will wait too long again and baby will come quicker and I not make it in time. or the total opposite that I will go in way to early. I guess when the time comes I will know 🤞🏻

  5. Had my first bub and was told by hospital to follow the 4-1-1 rule. Still got told I should wait longer when I rang and advised id done this. Went to hospital anyway feeling like I was going to be a pain and annoy them and ended up being 10cm dialated! Bub came 3.5hrs later 🤯 never got that epidural I was hanging out for 😂

  6. I used the 411 rule, per my OB. It was on my due date, I was admitted. I feel like I could’ve stayed home (and had more snacks) because eventually the doctor broke my water for me and that’s when the real pain kicked in. I wonder how long I could have stayed home instead.

  7. With my first I went in when I was having really painful contractions (back labor) I wasn’t timing them but they were pretty much back to back. When I got to the hospital they said I was barely dilated and were going to send me home- 15 mins later they were scrambling to call the dr 😂

  8. My water broke first. Very little dilation, tried to progress on my own but had to get induced three times, finally baby tried to go transverse so I got the drip and he was born two hours later. It really wasn’t to bad just really long. I pray if we ever have another one it’s not a 57 hour process lol.

  9. So I feel like I either missed the first part of labor or just went straight into active labor. First baby, 38 weeks 3 days. No signs of labor, was asleep. 2:30am wake up to a gush (water breaking) with no contractions. I stood up 20 minutes later and suddenly contractions start. So intense, one minute long, and 2 minutes apart 😬 the baby was born less than 8 hours later.
    I got to the hospital by 4am and was 7cm. I had an epidural, which slowed it down thankfully.

  10. I called the nurse triage due to sporatic contractions and went in to the hospital around 1am, but was sent home at 0 cm dilated. Before I even got back home I was accidentally pushing with each painful contraction for about 2 hours. I needed an ambulance to get me back to the hospital and was 8cm dilated when I arrived at 5am. 😳

  11. For my second baby, I was having contraction every 10 min for 60-90s, I was waiting for them to get closer to go to hospital but I felt like we should go anyway. When I arrived at triage, they said I was “complete” and should push whenever I feel like. My water broke at first push, he was born two push later 😅. Sometimes it’s best to listen to your own instinct and not just follow the book .. Contractions started at 4pm and he was born at 8pm, on his due date.

  12. With my first I had consistent contractions for two days but got sent home from the hospital twice because I wasn’t dilated enough. Very frustrating when you’re in pain and exhausted, but it’s better than admitting me and then trying to force pitocin because I wasn’t progressing quickly enough.

Posted By Claire

Claire is our Community Manager here at New Moms Forum. A mom of two (almost grown-up babies), Claire has been building and operating community-based websites for almost 20 years. In her downtime, Claire enjoys spending time with her family and drinking copious amounts of red wine!

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