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Once labor starts, here's how you know when to call to your doctor or midwife.
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Linda Murray: Aside from calling if your water breaks, most caregivers say it’s when you’ve spent an hour feeling regular painful contractions that last about a minute each and come every 5 minutes or so.
If your pregnancy is high-risk, you’ll need to contact your doctor earlier. Be sure to ask your caregiver exactly what your plan should be. Feel free to call if you think you might be in labor and have concerns or questions about whether you need care yet. Caregivers are used to getting calls like these and can let you know whether it’s time to head to the hospital or birth center. Many women are anxious to get there, but if you head in too early, you might be sent back home to wait for labor to progress. Do you know why? It’s because you really don’t need medical care yet, and if they do admit you early in labor, you’re more likely to face medical interventions, which have some drawbacks. Waiting at home may be more comfortable anyway. You’ll have plenty of room to move around, can take a warm shower, and won’t be attached to any machines. So it’s good advice to hang out at home until it’s really time to go in.
Regardless of the plan you have with your caregiver for when to call, there are some situations in which you should call right away. You should call if you think your water has broken, especially if the liquid is discolored, such as yellow, brown, greenish, or bloody. You should also call right away if you notice your baby is less active, if you have heavy vaginal bleeding, constant severe abdominal pain, or fever. If you start having regular contractions or other signs of labor before 37 weeks, or if you have severe headaches, changes in your vision, unusual swelling, or intense pain or tenderness in your upper abdomen, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone if you want to talk with your caregiver. Trust your instincts.