When You Should go to the Hospital for Labor: the Complete Guide

Updated: April 20, 2022
Go to Hospital
Table of contents

If you're not in labor

Answers to the above Questions (or Why They Are Important)
Believe it or not, the medical personnel do have valid reasons for asking you all these questions. Here is the information they can glean from your answers.
  1. The doctor wants to rule out any problems or potential complications that could occur with the labor and delivery. Be very specific about everything that has happened to you thus far.
  2. The number of contractions will give them some clue about how close you are to delivery.
  3. Again, they will be able to tell if you're close to delivery. Labor and delivery can be straightforward or extremely complicated. The doctor is always looking for any potential signs of problems.
  4. Sometimes, you may think you've broken your bag of water, but you haven't. You might just have urine leaking out from the pressure, which is normal. When most women break their bag of water, it's an obvious thing. You'll look down and a pool of water will be under you, and you can't do a thing to stop it. However, some women only leak a small amount of fluid when their water breaks. This might occur in cases where the amniotic fluid volume was low before the bag broke, or the baby's head could have sealed off the leakage and most of the fluid is still behind the baby in the uterus. It's important to know if the bag of water has broken because there is an increased risk for infection and there is less fluid cushioning the baby inside the uterus. Usually, if the water has broken, the doctor will deliver the baby within one to two days.
  5. Bleeding might indicate a problem with the placenta or in most cases, if the bleeding is minor, it could just indicate dilation of the cervix.
  6. The mucous plug sort of acts like a loose cork in the neck of a bottle, the neck of the bottle being the cervix in this case. As the cervix dilates or softens, the cork tends to fall out. What does it look like? Doctors say it kind of looks like snot. It's mucousy, thick and/or runny, stringy, and sometimes pink-tinged. Some women mistake it for their bag of water breaking.
  7. Usually, there is a perception that the baby is moving around less than it was, which is probably due to the fact that there is less available room for the baby. This is because the amniotic fluid, which keeps the uterus from squeezing the baby too tightly, tends to decrease towards your due date.
Horrors – If You're Not in Labor
After you and the baby have received a thorough evaluation by the doctors and nurses, and it is determined that you are doing fine, but you're not in labor, then you will likely be sent home and given directions as to when to come back. OK, this may be the lowest point in your whole life. All that excitement and phone calls to assorted friends and family for nothing. Go home with your tail between your legs and rest up, because be assured that you'll be going back to the hospital sooner or later.

Occasionally, if you're just on the verge of going into labor, the doctor may advise you to stay in the hospital and walk for several hours, up and down the hallways, hoping that it will induce labor. Often, physical activity and gravity (and the baby's head bouncing up and down on the cervix) can push a woman over the edge into labor if she is on the verge. After a period of walking, the doctor will recheck your cervix and see if you've made any further progress. If you have, you'll be admitted into the hospital with a diagnosis of labor, and eventually a baby should make its appearance.

If your cervix hasn't changed, then the medical personnel feel more reassured that you won't deliver in the very near future (i.e., on the highway going home), so they'll send you home. Let's face it – your doctor would feel pretty bad if she turned on the news and found out you'd delivered on the highway. Other factors that may cause a doctor to follow this "walking" procedure are if the patient lives far away (ergo, might not make it back in time) or if she's had several babies in the past (subsequent births tend to go quickly, leaving no time for the drive back and forth).

If you are sent home, the doctor will advise you to continue monitoring the progress of your labor. Here are a few precautions to watch out for:

  • The contractions worsen compared to what they were when you went into the hospital.
  • You suspect your bag of water has broken.
  • You have any unusual bleeding.
  • You have the perception that your baby isn't moving around well.
If any of these conditions occur, call the hospital or your doctor for advice, or simply go back to the hospital. Otherwise, if you're not having any of these symptoms, try to get some rest and be sure to mention your experience to your own doctor at your next appointment (assuming that he wasn't at the hospital).