For most women, staying at home for as long as possible is the best place to be. Some situations may mean you go in such as if your waters break and there is meconium (baby poop) in the water, if you are feeling unwell, reduced movements or have had a risk factor throughout your pregnancy that would make going in early beneficial.
Because our emotional/hormonal relationship has such an impact on labour progression, if you go in too early, you may find that the change of environment causes labour to slow down or stop, especially if a woman is feeling fearful.This is something I have seen time and time again: “but I was contracting every 4 minutes at home” and now its stopped.
There is also the risk of becoming swept away with the ‘cascade of intervention’. You may end up being offered ways to get labour going quickly which in turn has its own risks. Staying at home for most women allows them to feel more relaxed without the hustle and bustle of machines, midwives and doctors. This allows endorphins and oxytocin to be released more effectively thus assisting the labour process.
Labour is a unique experience, especially for first rime mothers. Some experience long labours and for some it happens quickly and everyone copes with pain differently.As a general rule though, contractions should have been coming every 3-4 minutes, lasting 1 minute for a couple of hours. They should be intense enough to take your breath away and zone into yourself. If you are having contractions every few minutes but you’re still laughing and talking through them (unless you’ve studied hypnobirthing) it’s unlikely you are in established labour – I will explain that in another post.
Get a balance, don’t leave it until the baby is crowning to make your way to the hospital or birth centre (you’d be better off staying put and having baby at home!) but don’t go in to early as you will have your early labour disrupted by trips back and forth to the hospital.