Television has been a great source of the fear many women have learned lately - getting to the hospital too late. If you ask any pregnant woman what her fears about birth are, chances are that this ranks right up there. After all, no one is planning to have their baby in the car or on the front lawn of the hospital. The reality is that the vast majority of women show up at the hospital too early.
Now this might not seem like a huge problem for you. You get to the hospital, get your room and get settled in and wait there, right? Well it is not always as simple as that scenario would seem. But if you get to the hospital too soon, you might get sent home or worse, you might experience interventions that you don't need.
The big questions can be, when is the right time to go to the hospital or birth center to have a baby? This is a decision best left for you to discuss with your doctor/midwife, your partner and your doula. You will also want to know the early labor policies of your hospital, including if they have an early labor garden, waiting room, etc.
Here are some scenarios to consider:
If you get to the hospital or birth center and you do not meet their requirements to be admitted to labor and delivery or you do not meet your own personal requirements for you to stay, consider going home. You can always come back at any time. Home is often more comfortable for the vast majority of women, particularly in early labor.
Going to a neutral place.
If you aren't ready to stay at the hospital, but you live far away and aren't quite ready to make the trek back home, consider a neutral place. If it's daytime, consider going to walk around a park or mall depending on the weather. Walking might help labor progress and you are closer to your place of birth. If it's night see if the hospital or birth center has a deal with a local hotel.
Staying and doing nothing.
If you are at the borderline of whether or not to stay, ask if they will let you stay, but not immediately consider interventions to induce or augment your labor, until labor begins. This can be a good option if you live far away from the hospital or if you have previously had rapid labors.
Staying and accepting intervention.
If you or your practitioner decide that you want to begin an induction of labor or an augmentation, you may also be offered that option. If you are offered induction or augmentation of labor, consider that it can increase your risk of further labor interventions including cesarean section.
In the end good open communications with your doctor or midwife can go a long way to you getting to the hospital at just the right time for your birth plans. Consider having the discussion with your birth team in advance of labor. This might make the decision easier on you when the time comes.
Main, E. K., Moore, D., Barrell, B., Schimmel, L. D., Altman, R. J., Abrahams, C., et al. (2006). Is there a useful cesarean birth measure? Assessment of the nulliparous term singleton vertex cesarean birth rate as a tool for obstetric quality improvement. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 194, 1644 - 1652.