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Pregnancy: When to Come to the Hospital


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As your due date gets closer, you will be watching for signs of labor. Some women have the first signs of labor as early as 3 weeks before their due date. Others have no signs of labor until 2 weeks after their due date. In general, women begin to feel the uterus contract around the 37th week of pregnancy.

Mild, irregular contractions may mean that your labor is near. True labor usually starts with a feeling of mild cramps in your lower belly (abdomen) and/or lower back. These cramps will slowly become closer, stronger, and more regular. They may get stronger when you are up and moving.

How to Time Your Contractions

Your doctor or midwife will ask you to keep track of your contractions. Write down each time when a new contraction begins. You should track the time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next contraction for at least 1 hour. For example, if one contraction starts at 12:00 and the next contraction starts at 12:15, your contractions are 15 minutes apart.

If you are having your first baby, you should call your doctor or midwife when your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart for at least 1 hour. You may feel uncomfortable and have a hard time walking or talking during the contractions. If you have already had a baby, call your doctor or midwife when your contractions are less than 10 minutes apart for at least 1 hour.

If your water breaks or leaks, you should also call your doctor or midwife right away. You may or may not have pain when your water breaks. You still need attention as soon as possible.

Other Possible Signs

You may notice signs that your body is preparing for labor. You may lose mucous from your cervix or have a pink mucous vaginal discharge (bloody show). This is not usually a sign of true labor. If you begin to have bright red bleeding, call your doctor or midwife right away.

Since sometimes the beginning of true labor is hard to figure out, call your doctor or midwife with any questions or problems you may be having.

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