Ask the Educators: When Should I Go to My Hospital or Birth Center?

Childbirth education at Blooma serves families no matter what type of birth they are planning. All classes present evidence-based information for normal and safe birth, influenced by the Lamaze 6 Healthy Birth Practices. Classes provide information to expectant families to reduce their fear or anxiety while building confidence and preparing them for birth.

Each Blooma Educator is a seasoned birth doula, up to date on birthing practices and policies.

Our educators frequently hear the same concerns about pregnancy, birth, and beyond.

A question our educators frequently hear: At what point during labor should I go to the hospital or birth center?

First and foremost, we advise all birthing people to listen to their body and their heart.  The most important thing is that you feel safe wherever you are.  This means some birthing people may stay at home longer than others, and some may choose to head to their birthing place earlier on.  Your labor may not meet the criteria below, and that’s the beauty of birth!  It’s not a one-size-fits-all kinda thing.  There is a wide range of normal when it comes to labor patterns, and despite the differences each birthing person may experience, there is always some amount of common ground.

Here are a couple tips and tricks to give you insight.

It is always a good idea to let your care team know when you suspect you are in labor.  Your provider, and doula if you're choosing to work with one, can help you identify where you are at in your labor by listening (in person or on the phone) as you cope through a contraction.  They may suggest rest and comfort measures and encourage you to stay at home a bit longer.  If it’s clear you are in full-on active labor, your provider or doula may suggest making your way to the car (which sometimes can take 30 minutes as you’ll need to pause and focus during contractions) and head to your place of birth.

“4-1-1” is a great tool to help you gauge the progress you are making.  During active labor, contractions will pick up in intensity, become closer together, and stay that way.  We love to see a pattern of 4 minutes between the start of one contraction to the next and each contraction lasting for about 60 seconds.  This pattern should occur for at least an hour.  At this stage of labor your contractions will require your full attention and focus and you will not be easily distracted.  Your job is to breathe and cope through each wave and surge, and then rest in between.  Your support people (partner and/or doula) will be giving you their full attention; helping with position changes, providing water/snacks, encouraging you to go to the bathroom frequently, and reminding you of your strength and power.  It can be so helpful to have someone right by your side the entire time.

Plan accordingly with the travel time from your house to your birthing place.  It is also important to factor in heavy traffic times. Sitting in a car is not the most comfortable place to labor, so if you are approaching a heavy traffic time, you may want to work with your care team to work around it.

What might be an advantage to laboring at home for a longer period of time?

You may be giving birth at a hospital or birth center. But, it is a good idea to labor at home.

It helps to arrive at your place of birth when labor is fully established.  At this point you are more likely to be in a good rhythm with coping through the discomfort and know what tools work well to help you manage each surge. Sometimes arriving at your place of birth too early in labor can cause contraction patterns to subside or stall.

If you are hoping for an unmedicated birth, staying at home as long as you feel safe and comfortable increases your chance of avoiding interventions.

Your home is where you live!  It’s comfortable and safe.  You have your own blankets, pillows, bed, and couch.  You are surrounded by your own scent and personal feel.  You have access to your own kitchen and food preferences to keep you nourished.  Being in your own space allows you the ability to control things like lighting, music, and mood in a much more private and uncensored space than that of your birthing place.

Always remember to listen to your body and your heart. When unsure, always reach out to your educator, doula, midwife, or doctor.

Want to feel more prepared for your birth? Have more questions for our educators? We encourage you to join us for one of our Childbirth Education Classes at Blooma. Find one here. Best of luck to you and your birth!

Laboring at Home Photo by Jenna Dailey

Written by Amy Kelley, Doula, Childbirth Educator, Prenatal Yoga Instructor, Kids, Toddler, & Byob Yoga Instructor.  Wife, dog mom, sister, daughter, and auntie to 6 beautiful children!  You can find me on Instagram as @amykelleydoula or visit my website at www.amynkelley.com