Getting to hospital for childbirth

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Getting to hospital for childbirth on time isn’t just about preserving your dignity (although if the last thing in the world you want to do is give birth in the back of a taxi you’re certainly not alone!). It’s also about protecting your health and the health of your newborn.

Once you reach the stage of labour at which your water breaks, there is a risk that you or your baby can get an infection. The sac which holds the water which breaks out just before you give birth is called the amniotic sac and throughout your pregnancy it has created a barrier to prevent harmful bacteria entering your womb and harming your baby. Once you water breaks, so does this protective barrier.

You may leave for hospital well before your water breaks, and the very latest time you should leave is when your contractions are coming at regular intervals, and/or your water breaks. But regardless of whether you decide to leave at the first sign of labour pains or wait until the last minute, it’s important to have a plan in place to make sure your trip to hospital is as hassle free as possible.

Know where you’re going

It may sound obvious and you’ve probably already thought of it, but when you’re preparing for childbirth make sure you know which hospital you’ll give birth at, and how to get there. You should also plan your route and perhaps an alternative way of getting to hospital, in case you happen to go into labour during peak hour. It’s also important to know how to get into the hospital and which entrance you should use. You might also want to scope out the car park and work out the closest place to leave the car, so dad is not away for too long.

When you’ve worked all this out, do a trial run so you know exactly how long it takes you to drive there. A trial run will also help you become familiar with the route and how to get to the hospital from home.

Recognise the signs of labourPregnant woman in hospital gown

To make sure you get to hospital in time to give birth in sanitary surroundings and with the supervision of doctors and nurses, start by making sure you’re familiar with the signs of labour. These include:

  • Your ‘water’ breaking- it may be just a trickle or a gush. It’s a good idea to put a pad on before leaving for hospital when your waters have broken;
  • Bleeding fresh, bright red coloured blood. Put on a pad and don’t dispose of it until you’ve seen a midwife- she may want to check the colour of the blood;
  • Painful, regular contractions, which occur every 5-7 minutes.

They’re not always easy to recognise, for example the waters breaking can be confused with urine escaping from the bladder (and if you’re already very pregnant, you’ll already know that’s something that just happens from time to time). If in any doubt, give the hospital a call and ask to talk to a midwife who can help you work out whether your labour is imminent or you’ve got a little more waiting to do. You will need to contact the hospital and let them know you think you’re in labour and on your way to give birth anyway.

Prepare the car

Make sure your car is ready to go and there’s someone there to drive you to hospital. Have it serviced, make sure the rego is up to date and don’t forget the petrol tank- you absolutely will not want to stop to fill up on the way to hospital. And make sure the car is roadworthy and in good condition- that means all the lights, brakes and other bits are working. An accident is very dangerous for your unborn baby.

Organise someone to drive you to hospital and make sure there’s a back up person (even if it’s really unlikely that they’ll fall over and break a leg or anything).

Have a plan B

If your car has a habit of breaking down at important moments, you might need to organise a taxi, friend or relative for back up. Make sure you have their numbers handy and if you’re using a taxi, have some cash on hand to pay them. Calling an ambulance to come and pick you up is also a possibility.

Driving to hospital

When your special moment finally arrives, don’t forget to drive safely! Firstly, make sure someone else is driving- it’s a good idea to avoid driving in the last couple of months of pregnancy if you can, but you definitely must not drive during labour.

Make sure the driver is a safe one. Obviously they should avoid alcohol and other drugs in case they need to get behind the wheel unexpectedly early. But they should also stick to road rules. Even though you need to get to hospital quickly, but you also need to get there in one piece. So take the shortest route and don’t waste time, but do it safely, without speeding or running a red light.

Make sure you wear your seat belt correctly. For pregnant women this means with the lap belt pulled as low down as possible (and sitting under your bump) and the shoulder belt placed over the top of your bump. Make sure it stays there during the journey- if you’re wearing a heavy coat, opening the front can help keep the seatbelt in place. If the centre back seat has a shoulder belt, that’s the safest place to be, otherwise the side back seats are considered safer than the front seats.

Giving birth at home

If a homebirth is more your style, you won’t have to worry about packing bags or getting to the hospital. But you’ll still need to make sure you have the midwife’s phone number so you can call her when it’s time. And make sure the midwife has your address and knows how to use her GPS.

References

  1. American Pregnancy Association. 36th Week of Pregnancy. 2008. (cited 6 March 2013). Available from: (URL Link)
  2. NSW Health. What to bring to hospital when having a baby. 2004. (cited 6 March 2013). Available from: (URL Link)
  3. National Health Service (UK). Pack your bag for labour. 2013. (cited 6 March 2013). Available from: (URL Link)
  4. St John of God Hospital- Subiaco. Information for parents to be. 2009. (cited 6 March 2013) Available from: (URL Link)
  5. St John of God Hospital- Murdoch. A Guide for Maternity Patients- St Mary’s Ward. 2011. (cited 7 March 2013) Available from: (URL Link)
  6. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Labour and birth- spot the signs-of-labour. 2010. (cited 7 March 2013). Available from: (URL Link)
  7. King Edward Memorial Service. Formula Feeding. 2012. (cited 7 March 2013). Available from: (URL Link)
  8. New York State Government. Your guide to a healthy birth. 2010. (cited 7 March 2013). Available from: (URL Link)
  9. Moore KL, Persaud TVN, Torchia MG. The Developing Human: Clinically oriented embryology (9th edition). Philadelphia: Saunders-Elsevier; 2011. (Book)
  10. Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Centre- Women’s and Children’s Health Service. Welcome Baby- A guide for expectant parents. 2009. (cited 16 March 2013). Available from: (URL Link)
  11. California Department of Public Health. Getting to know your baby- birth to six months. 2012. Cited 16 March 2013. Available from: (URL Link)
  12. Mayo Clinic. Diaper Rash Prevention. 2012. (cited 16 March 2013). Available from: (URL Link)
  13. Shire of Yarra Ranges. What happens during labour and birth. 2013. (cited 25/3/2013). Available from: (URL Link)

More information on packing for hospital

A doctor handing a mum her newborn baby For more information about what mums should put in their hospital bag see Packing for hospital- things mum will need during labour and after childbirth
Newborn baby in hospital For more information about what to put in the hospital bag for your newborn see Packing for hospital- what to take for your newborn
Man folding a shirt into a suitcase For suggestions of things fathers to be should pack in their hospital bags see Fathers to be- what to pack for hospital
Pregnant woman with bag packed, holding keys ready to go to hospital For more information about packing for hospital What to pack for hospital
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Date Created: April 12, 2013 Date Modified: November 28, 2018