When should I go to hospital?
It may seem tempting to rush to hospital as soon as you feel the first twinge of a contraction, but the longer you stay at home, the better.
The last thing you want is to be waiting around for hours at the hospital, where the atmosphere is unfamiliar and could make you tense, when you could be enjoying the comforts of your own home. Similarly you don't want to arrive at the hospital only to be told you have to go home again.
Labouring at home has many advantages such as your home comforts, your bed and your bathroom near by. (In some maternity wards your labour room will not have a bathroom attached). If you plan to labour at home you can arm yourself with necessary equipment such as:
A birthing ball
You may have seen the huge inflatable balls in the hospital but you can buy or hire one for home. Lots of women find comfort from them in labour as you can lie on them, rock on them whilst sitting or lean over one for support. (Lots of women also report using them after their baby is born to sit on with their baby in their arms gently rocking as the motion helps to send babies to sleep).
A TENS machine
TENS machines send small electrical pulses to the body via electrodes placed on the skin and are thought to affect the way pain signals are sent to the brain. The TENS machine basically blocks the pain signals from reaching the brain meaning you should feel less pain. If you do hire or buy a machine it is a good idea to practise with one first before you go into labour, as some women report they can be tricky to get the hang of but are very efficient if used properly.
If your waters break, or your contractions are five minutes apart and get stronger over time, or if you experience any vaginal bleeding it is time to head to the hospital. You can phone your midwife and explain which stage of labour you think you are at, and you will be advised what your next step should be. Even if you are asked to go into hospital, you may still be told to go home and return when contractions become unbearable.
When you arrive at the hospital once labour has started you may be shown into your own room, or to a special room for women who have just been admitted. Your midwife will ask you a series of questions about your labour so far. It is important that you bring your maternity notes with you as they contain all the information about your pregnancy. Typical questions may include, have your waters broken? Have had experienced any contractions – if so how long and how far apart? When did you last eat? Have you had a show, or any vaginal bleeding?
You will have your blood pressure checked, your pulse, breathing and temperature checked, and you may be asked for a urine sample at some point.
You will have an internal examination to see if your cervix has dilated at all, and if it hasn’t you may be sent home until you are in active labour.
The midwife will feel your tummy at some point to check where the baby is lying and which position he is lying in.
If you have a birth plan, show this to your midwife once you have settled in and have time to talk it through.