When It's Go Time

If the contractions have started, when is the right time to call the doctor? Childbirth Educator Kira Smith (ICCE) offers some advice.

woman in labor

Your question

At what point should a first-time mom call the doctor if she thinks labor has started? I don't want any false alarms!

The expert answers

This is a really important question to discuss with your caregiver. Each doctor has different guidelines just as each pregnant woman has different needs.

A general rule of thumb is to call when your contractions are five minutes apart, lasting for one minute or longer, and this has been happening for one hour. This is called 5-1-1. Other healthcare providers go by the rule of 3's. Contractions are three minutes apart, lasting 30 seconds or longer and this has been happening for 30 minutes. As you can see these are two different patterns and your labor might not fall into that pattern. Additionally, if you've a baby before you may have a shorter labor so it might be necessary to call sooner. Another reason to call is if your water breaks, or you think it might have but you are not sure

I tell my clients to discuss when to call with their doctors or midwives and then call when they think it is time to call or have a concern. Most healthcare providers have an on-call rotation so you don't have to worry about waking someone up in the middle of the night for a false alarm. The person who is on-call is expecting it and will help you make a decision if it is time to go to the hospital.

Tags: signs


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