When To Go To The Hospital (& Timing Your Contractions)

As we've talked about before, labour doesn't usually begin with a huge gush of water as it breaks and you rush off to the hospital. It's a slow steady process of your contractions building in strength and intensity as they get closer together. 

The typical rule of thumb is 4-1-1. 

When your contractions are 4 minutes apart, lasting for about one minute each, and they've been that way for one hour, it's time. 

Using a phone app is a great way to time them. With my clients I use the app 'Contraction Timer' on my iPhone, and it's great. When I join my clients I typically start timing a few contractions just to get a feel for where we are. 

It's important that you don't make too big a deal out of this; mama should not be focused on timing, just about breathing and focusing through them. Sometimes contractions can slow down a bit, and it's totally normal, they'll kick up again, but it can discourage the labouring woman. 

A client's contractions timed

A client's contractions timed

These are the timed contractions from one of my client's labours. As you can see she progressed pretty quickly, starting from around 8 or 9 minutes, moving fast to 6 minutes, then 5 minutes. 

Her contractions were lasting about a minute and a half long, and they were intense. But this strong mama birthed her beautiful baby girl in the comfort of her own home. That was my first (and so far only) home birth. It was magical.

The midwives were called when the contractions were 4 or 5 minutes apart. The same time that, if she were planning a hospital birth, we would head over there. 

It's important to note that, sometimes labour doesn't always go as planned. If something feels wrong, or if your water breaks and you notice anything other than clear fluid, go to the hospital. It is better to be safe than sorry. 

Otherwise, just remember to keep a cool head when labour begins, let it progress how it wants to, and use the 4-1-1 rule!

-Lila