When to go to the hospital

by Kaiser Permanente |
Pregnant woman feeling pain in the back.

By week 40 of your pregnancy, your body will give you signs that it’s getting ready to give birth. But how do you know when it’s time to go to the hospital?

You’ll probably go through what is known as early labor at home. These mild to moderate contractions coming at irregular intervals can last several hours. You may feel an urge to get to the hospital right away, but until you progress to active labor, or your water breaks, there’s not much that your clinician can do.

Experiencing early labor at home has many advantages. You can move about freely, enjoy the foods you like, listen to your favorite music, and be surrounded by family and friends.

Ask your clinician if you need to call ahead to your preferred hospital if think you are in labor or if your water has broken.

Go to the hospital immediately if you notice that your baby’s movements slow or stop. Babies should move at least 10 times within two hours. If your baby isn’t moving, try eating, drinking, or lying on your left side to stimulate them.

If your water breaks while you’re at home, there is no need to rush. Call your Labor and Delivery and follow their instructions.

Counting contractions can help you know when your labor has progressed. If this is your first baby, consider going to the hospital when your contractions are every 3 to 5 minutes for an hour or more and you are unable to walk and talk through your contractions. If this isn’t your first baby, you should wait until your contractions are 5 to 7 minutes apart for a full hour.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.