- Start packing a small suitcase for the hospital after your eighth month. Keep a second suitcase at work or carry one in the car. Use this checklist provided to help you remember everything. Leave jewelry and other valuables at home.
- Keep your cell phone with you at all times, and bring your phone charger with you to work. Have your partner and other emergency contacts listed in your speed-dial/"favorites" for easy access to their phone numbers.
- Keep at least a quarter tank of gas in your car at all times.
- Keep money for tolls in your car.
- Keep the phone number of a twenty-four-hour taxi service in your cell phone, at your desk, and at home, just in case.
- Rehearse your route to the hospital and an alternate in case of traffic problems with your designated driver. Get a sense of the timing, especially at lunch hour and rush hour when traffic may be heavy.
- Know which hospital door to enter and what route to take to the maternity area. When childbirth is imminent, you don't want to be wandering around lost in a big hospital.
Most first labors last for many hours so there shouldn't be an immediate need for you to rush off to the hospital. Call your spouse and/or labor coach to pick you up from work and take you home where you'll be more comfortable while laboring. If you're not feeling well, find a quiet, private place to rest while a trusted coworker makes the call, informs your boss/supervisor about your situation, and perhaps even stays with you until your ride arrives. Of course, if you are beginning to deliver, or feel that you're experiencing a medical emergency (sudden bleeding, faintness, or excruciating pain), you should call your doctor, 911, or a private ambulance service immediately.
In the early stages of labor, contractions will last about thirty seconds, building up to ninety seconds or even longer at the end of the first stage. You may also feel the following:
- Your baby droppingAs your baby moves downward and forward, your abdominal pressure will lessen and breathing will be easier. This is called "dropping" or "lightening." It may occur at any time in the last four weeks but usually doesn't happen until labor starts. Now the pressure will be on your bladder. You can expect frequent urination, shooting pains down your legs, and an increase in vaginal discharge.
- False contractionsShort, irregular spasms, called Braxton Hicks contractions, may occur in late pregnancy. They may be stopped with a change of activity; for example, shifting from standing to sitting down. Because the best way to keep your mind off these false contractions is to keep busy, the working woman has an advantage. Try not to worry unduly or let nervousness drive you to the hospital prematurely.
- Premenstrual-like symptomsCramps, pressure on your rectum, and wanting to empty your bladder and bowels are early signs that labor is about to begin.