When you need to go to the hospital for delivery varies from woman to woman. As an Obstetrician/Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist who sees high-risk pregnancies, women are often travelling up to two hours to come to my clinic. The advice about when to come to hospital for those women is different than what I tell women who live close to the hospital.
Unfortunately, there are no nerves in your cervix that will tell you if you’re 2 cm or 10 cm dilated. Sometimes, there are stops-and-starts before real labour happens. And sometimes there is a prolonged “latent” phase. No one is in “real” labour for 36 hours (despite many women feeling as if they have been!). You could certainly have contractions that go on for a long period of time before you start real labour but we can’t predict when things are going to actually start. When in doubt, go in and get checked. Only an examination of your cervix will tell for certain if labour has begun.
In general, if you are having contractions that come about every 5 minutes apart, are regular, last a minute and have been going on for more than an hour - come to the hospital.
If your contractions have become painful to the point you need something to deal with the pain - regardless of how far apart they are - come to the hospital.
If you are bleeding, your water has broken, you are leaking green or darkish brown fluid – come to the hospital.
If you have any concerns about your pregnancy or feel the baby’s movements have decreased or stopped – come to the hospital.