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

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

What to pack

From the Doctor's Perspective...
When I asked John how common false labor was? His response was a hearty laugh and this insightful message, "Pretty darn common!" (OK, he used a slightly more forceful expletive.)

From a Frustrated Mother's Perspective...
I walked for hours once in that scary hospital gown and those stupid pieces of cardboard they call slippers. Up and down the hallway, past the women who were having babies, up and down, talking to the relatives, up and down, with nothing ever happening. I felt like some kind of freak who didn't have enough sense to get the labor going. Needless to say, I was pissed when nothing happened, and I was sent home.

The Need to Clean
There's an old myth that if you clean your house or scrub the floors, you'll go into labor. If you feel like cleaning the house and getting it in order, by all means, go ahead and do so. While some people may say it doesn't work, my experience is that it is a great indicator of an impending birth. Hey, if you don't go into labor, you'll still have a clean house and feel better. No loss there! Mr. Clean would be proud.

What to Pack – Just in Case
Packing a suitcase for the hospital is not as tricky as you might think. After all, if all goes well, your stay there will be limited to a day or two. You'll probably be wearing those god-awful gowns most of the time, at least during the labor and delivery, which doesn't leave a lot of room for any other clothes. For a detailed list from an experienced mom, watch this video from CloudMom for tips and ideas to make packing easier.

For the Mother
First, pack the amenities: personal soap (if you want it), shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, makeup, brush, comb, whatever – the things from home that make you feel like yourself. Second, you'll need a gown of some sort, a robe, and slippers (or sandals if you'd prefer) since you will probably be spending one night there, and really, really don't want to wear their version of a nightgown anymore. If you're nursing, make sure that you pack a nursing bra and a gown that is easily opened or accessible to the baby. If you're not nursing, pack a bra that fit you while you were pregnant, making sure that it has lots of support. The milk will still come in, and your breasts will feel very, very heavy.

You'll need some kind of outfit to wear home. Believe it or not, you won't be wearing your favorite prepregnancy clothes when you leave the hospital. Most of that weight will still be with you for a while, so you might want to wear a loose fitting dress or even maternity pants and tops. That will probably rub you the wrong way, because no one wants to wear maternity clothes after delivery; however, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. You need to be clad in something to escape the hospital confines.

For the Baby
Packing for the baby is a lot more fun than packing for you. If you know the sex, you can obviously choose something that is a suitable color (if you put boys in pink, don't be offended when they're mistaken for girls). It's good to have some kind of gown or sleeper set for the baby. The hospital will supply you with diapers until you leave. An undershirt is a necessity, and they're so cute and tiny. Booties are fun. Forget shoes – babies at that age don't do shoes. If the weather is bad, make sure you have the appropriate attire to wrap the baby in (what's that bundling thing called?). It's always good to bring some baby blankets to wrap them up like a baked potato.

Most importantly, take a car seat. You can't take the baby from the hospital without one. Oh, and don't forget your camera or video cam. By the way, if your husband or significant other is even marginally competent, he can bring anything you've forgotten to the hospital.

The Absolute Minimum
When your first baby's birth is imminent, every little change in your body becomes a "real" (at least in your mind) symptom of birth to an expectant mother. In truth, there are some pretty decisive ways to tell whether or not you're in labor. If you match any or all of the criteria listed in this chapter, then you should be having a baby fairly soon.

  • Both you and your partner should monitor the spacing and regularity of your contractions. Chart them, if at all possible.
  • Your doctor will tell you what specific symptoms to watch for, but if you break your water, call your doctor.
  • Braxton-Hicks contractions can make a pregnant woman's life hell, just from the confusion they cause. They can feel very, very real. Don't be afraid to go to the hospital to get checked. Better safe than sorry.
  • Pack and prepare in advance as much as possible. You won't be thinking of last-minute details when you're in real labor.