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As your estimated due date nears, you might be wondering… how will I know when to go to the hospital when I'm in labor?


The general rule of thumb is that you’re considered in ‘active labor’ once you reach 4-1-1.

What’s the 4-1-1 rule?

It’s when contractions are four minutes apart, lasting one minute each, for at least one hour. (Tip: use a contraction timing app to save yourself some brain power)


This is also when most hospitals will admit you for labor.


Does that mean that you have to go in when you’ve reached 4-1-1? Or that you can’t go beforehand? Of course not, we’re talking birth, where there is hardly ever a black and white answer.

Here are 3 things to consider in deciding when to go to the hospital:

 1. YOUR birth preference and ideal timing.


Start with your ideal birth. How might your decision on when to head to the hospital impact your birth?  


For example, if you’re planning a natural vaginal birth (and there are NO medical issues present for this pregnancy and this birth), heading to the hospital at the first sign of labor might not be the best choice.


On the other hand, if you’re planning on getting an epidural right away, your timing decision probably looks a little different.


Where does your birth preference fall on the natural/medicated spectrum? And, what’s the best timing for YOU?

Don't have a birth plan yet? Grab a copy of the birth plan template in the FREEBIE LIBRARY to get started.


2. Your provider’s suggestion.


Have this discussion with your provider during your prenatal visits. They’re looking at your pregnancy as a whole and can provide specific insight as to the best time to come in, considering your unique pregnancy.


If your pregnancy is high risk, your provider may prefer that you come in at the first sign of labor.


Also, many providers would like to see you within a certain amount of time of your water breaking. Ask your provider about their specific protocol during this chat.


3. Your plan for laboring at home.


If there are no medical reasons that you have to go to the hospital at a specific point, how do you feel about laboring at home?


What does laboring at home look like for you?


Plan for part of your birth squad to be there to support you (i.e. doula, partner, mom, friend, etc.).


Plan for managing contractions at home (i.e. tub, shower, massage, music, positions, etc.).


***Reminder: Be sure to contact your provider if...

  • your water breaks.

  • you’re experiencing any bleeding.

  • you’ve met 4-1-1 rule -or- 5-1-1 rule (depending on your provider).

  • you’ve given birth before (you might want to contact your provider sooner).

  • you have questions or you’re unsure.

  • you have a specific condition in which you’d need to be in the hospital sooner.