When to go to the maternity unit
If this is your first baby chances are you will be feeling very unsure about when you should actually go to the maternity unit to have your baby. You don’t want to go in too early and risk feeling silly but you don’t want to leave it too late either. The Braxton Hicks contractions that you may have been experiencing as a run-up to the real event may have you thinking that labour is beginning when in fact it is not. Although Braxton Hicks contractions are indeed real contractions they are very different from the contractions that you will experience in established labour as they are irregular and will not make your cervix dilate.
If you are unsure about whether you should go in or not, the best thing to do is to ring your midwife or the unit and ask for advice. They will understand your concerns and will only be too happy to reassure you and advise on the best course of action. The midwife will probably ask you a few questions such as how often you are having contractions, how long they are lasting for and if your waters have broken.
If your waters have broken you will probably be told to go to the maternity unit so that they can check how your labour is progressing. Only an examination of the vagina can determine whether your cervix has dilated, and only if it has dilated are you in labour. If it has dilated to four centimetres you are in what is known as active labour and you will be admitted. Should you be having contractions but your waters have not yet broken, you may well be advised to stay at home and wait until your contractions are coming every five minutes, last for a minute and are regular and strong. You will probably be more relaxed and comfortable staying in your own home for as long as you can, though should you live a long way from the maternity unit it is a good idea to leave sooner so that you get there in plenty of time. If this is not your first baby, labour may happen a lot faster than it did with your first so it is time to go in when your contractions are seven to ten minutes apart.
Going into labour is not the only time you should ring the maternity unit to see if you should go in; there are other circumstances that may warrant you going in. If you are pregnant you must seek advice if you experience any bleeding or if your baby is not moving as much as it normally does or is not moving at all. In these circumstances the maternity unit will advise you to go in so that you and your baby can be checked to see that everything is well.
If you have any concerns regarding your pregnancy or your baby you should ring either the maternity unit or your midwife who will advice you on the best course of action.