What if? Those words precede many thoughts throughout a woman’s pregnancy. What if I’m pregnant? What if I need a C-section? What if our baby looks like Uncle Harry? You get the point.
But for many women, the most pressing “what if” question is this: What if I don’t make it to the hospital and have to deliver my baby at home?
Although it is extremely rare for that to happen, especially with a first baby, many women worry about getting to the hospital in time during those last weeks of pregnancy. Rest assured, the length of labor for a first-time mom can be anywhere from eight to 24 hours … so you really do have plenty of time. (For second-time moms, the labor may be half as long as it is for first-timers, but keep in mind that these times are averages, and there are women who defy the statistics and give birth much faster or slower!)
In the unlikely event that you do find yourself stuck in a cabin during a snowstorm, locked in bumper to bumper traffic, or alone at home when contractions hit, don’t panic! We’ve mapped out what you need to know to deliver your own baby.
Is This Really IT?
Figuring out if you’re in real labor or false labor is essential. Before your 35th week of pregnancy, your doctor or midwife will most likely review with you the symptoms of real and preterm labor. (They are used to getting a lot of calls from moms, so don’t be afraid to call and check in if you think this might really be it!)
If you’ve experienced the following, chances are you’re in real labor:
- Loss of mucus plug (this plug has been tucked inside the cervix, protecting the opening)
- Rupturing of your bag of waters
- Low back pain or cramping (it can start intermittently and may become regular)
- Tightening of your abdomen (contractions)
If the time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next lasts between 30 to 75 seconds, and there are about five minutes between contractions, this may indeed be real labor. You’ll find that the pain with real labor contractions will build, and your belly will harden and then soften. And you won’t be able to make these contractions go away by lying down, emptying your bladder, or drinking fluids.