by Liza Janda AAHCC

Before you even decide when to go to your birth place during labor, you have to get through early labor. Stay home as long as you can and labor at home, before even thinking about when to go to your birth place. Staying home during labor is usually longer than you think you should and longer than you may want to. But your labor will be a lot more productive if you stay at home. At home you’re in a relaxed environment, one you’re used to and comfortable with. If you arrive at a birth center or a hospital and you’re not 5 cm dilated, the best thing to do is to leave.  You won’t be able to get an epidural at a hospital until you’re at least 5 cm dilated. And the birth center won’t admit you unless you’re 5 cm dilated. So pay attention to the advice below and look at the Active Labor Formula Table. If you do, you will probably go to your birth place during labor at just the right time, no matter what kind of birth you envision for your baby.

What To Do When Labor Begins?


“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.

  • Stay calm. Try to relax. Adrenaline from excitement can slow down or stop your labor.
  • Get your birth partner to draw you a bath.
  • And give you a massage.
  • Take a walk together.
  • Take a nap together or alone.
  • 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 labor, you will:

  1. EAT something even if you aren’t hungry.
  2. SLEEP or rest if it’s early labor.
  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.

Combine the Pattern of Your Contractions
with Emotional Signposts

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 Patterns of Active Labor Emotional Signposts of Labor Physiological Signposts of Labor
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 doctor, or hospital and 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.