Expecting women and their families worry about how they’ll recognise the symptoms of labour pain. It’s good knowledge to have because leaving for the hospital at the right time can spare couples a lot of anxiety at a crucial moment.
“I must have left for the hospital twice before my labour actually started. You should have seen the chaos! Both times my husband had a meltdown and ran around looking for his car keys and shoes and I couldn’t find my overnight bag.
The third time we came to the hospital, my water broke and I thought my baby would just slide out in the car!”
Three weeks after her baby’s delivery, it was easy enough for Radhika to laugh about the chaos when she went into labour. But she’s not the only woman to find herself in this situation.
“I think we could have been more prepared,” Radhika told us. “Once we got to the hospital, things went off smoothly. But now if I think about it, we didn’t need to be so stressed.”
She makes a good point. For first time mothers, labour can stretch out for quite a long time, and being prepared can help make the process easier to manage.
Remember to trust your body and your instincts. “There’s no way you can miss labour!” says Dr. Swati Sinha. “Contractions are painful enough for you to notice they’re happening.”
Symptoms of labour – what does labour pain feel like?
According to Dr. Sinha, you’ll feel like you’re being squeezed quite tightly. You may also feel your stomach getting very hard.
You’ll need to observe your contractions for the first few hours to see how they’re developing. When you’re in early labour, you’re more likely to feel irregular and infrequent cramps that are usually painless.
These are also known as Braxton Hicks contractions or false labour and don’t require admission to the hospital.If you stay close to the hospital or if there’s nothing to worry about with your false labour, we’ll send you home. We’ve seen patients come in from as far as Dwarka and Gurgaon who were sent back because they weren’t ready to deliver.”
How will I know when to leave for the hospital?
Dr. Sinha recommends watching for a couple of symptoms after your initial contractions begin.
“If you’re in active labour, your contractions will progressively become more frequent and more painful. Once you start feeling them 10 minutes apart for a full 60 seconds or more, then you can leave for the hospital.
Recurring back pain can also be a sign of labour, but if you’re not sure about what’s happening, call your doctor and ask what you should do.”
Will I need to call an ambulance?
“No,” says Dr. Sinha, “there’s no need for an ambulance. Labour is not a cardiac arrest – it’s a natural process. And even if your water bag breaks, you’ll have enough time to get to the hospital and get admitted without any reason for panic.”
If your water bag does break, you’ll feel a gush of fluid trickling down to your ankle or your knee. You’ll need to change your clothes and put on a sanitary napkin before heading to the hospital or your birthing center.
You may also see a mucoid discharge which is blood tinged. This is also called show and is a normal sign of labour.
For women who’ve reached full term, i.e. 37 weeks, any of the above signs of labour are a part of the normal birthing process. Women who experience bleeding and contractions before they complete 37 weeks should call their doctors immediately to see if they require immediate attention.
Let us know if you have any more questions about getting to the hospital. We want you to be well-prepared for labour when the time comes!