by Liza Janda AAHCC

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Everyone wants to know when it’s time to go to your birthplace, especially if you’re giving birth in a hospital or a birth center. When do you call your home birth midwife or your doula, to let them know that active labor has begun?

For first time moms, the moment when you realize, “This is it!” can be very exciting. But with excitement comes adrenaline.

 I hate to poop on your party, but… The more excited you are, or the more nervous you are, or the more fearful you are, the longer it will take until you can actually hold your new baby in your arms. Adrenaline slows down, interrupts, stops, and just plain gets in the way of a good, productive labor! Ban adrenaline from your early labor!

 Do you want a long labor? Duh!

No one wants a long labor! That’s an easy question to answer.

So if you want things to go as smoothly as possible, as quickly as possible, then here is what you do when labor begins:

IGNORE YOUR LABOR!

“Whaaaat?” you say.

“Yes!” I say.

If it’s the time you usually sleep, then sleep.

If it’s the time you usually eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or snacks, then EAT!

Do what you normally at that time of day or night.

If you made plans with friends, keep them. You can always leave if you need to.

Ignore your labor as long as possible. Trust me! It will get your full attention when active labor kicks in.

First time moms run into trouble when they are so excited that they don’t eat or sleep. So get your birth partner to draw you a bath, or give you a massage. Take a walk together. Take a nap together. If your amniotic sac is still intact, you can even make love. An orgasm can help things along, and at least one of you can enjoy it! Semen has natural prostaglandins that help to soften and ripen your cervix.

 So if you want a smoother, faster, healthier labor, you will:

  1. EAT something even if you aren’t hungry.
  2. SLEEP or rest if it’s the middle of the night
  3. WALK because changing positions helps encourage contractions and helps the baby drop
  4. BATHE because it is so relaxing and helps alleviate pain of contractions
  5. DRINK water with electrolytes to keep yourself hydrated and keep your energy up.

 This is how you know it’s time to go to your birthplace. Remember that you don’t just rely on the pattern of your contractions/surges. How you feel and act emotionally is even more important than the pattern of contractions. Check with your care provider to see if there is any medical reason they might want you to arrive earlier. Otherwise, use this formula.

You’re looking for a distinct change in your contraction pattern and your emotional behavior. But, in general, it’s good to stay home until:

     Contraction Pattern

Emotional Signs

Physiological signs

Contractions/surges are 3 minutes apart or even less

 Laboring mom is very focused during and between contractions

Laboring mother may start moaning or sighing loudly

Contractions are 60-90 seconds long and not less

She is not hungry

Doesn’t use complete sentences to get her point across

Contractions continue with this pattern uninterrupted for minimum of 60 minutes- 2 hours

She has lost any sense of modesty.

She may be doing

repetitive movements, or ritual-like series of actions

There has been a clear, noticeable change in intensity or pattern of surges

Cannot carry on a conversation

She may have a back pain


 Study this table well. When you have these signs, you are probably at least half way to that moment when you get to meet your little one. So go call your doula or midwife, or get ready to head to your birthplace. Good luck, and congratulations!

Note: This is not a prescription for your particular case. Discuss this issue with your care provider and decide, together, when is the safest time for you to go to your birth place.