If the movies are to be believed you know when you are in labour when:

a) You wake up with a start because you are having a contraction and rush to the hospital immediately.

b) Your waters break somewhere public and you start having agonising contractions.

In reality it’s normally nothing like that. Knowing when you are in labour and it’s time to go to the hospital isn’t that straightforward! In most cases you start with a few ‘twinges’. And then you begin to question whether you are having contractions or Braxton Hicks. And this can go on for hours. Days even! At some point you will start timing them and questioning whether it’s time to get to the hospital as things get more intense.

I asked the question in my antenatal class, how do you know when you are in labour and it’s time to go to the hospital? I was told…

“You will just know when it’s time.”

Second time, yes I absolutely did know. Even when the midwife was telling me on the phone that I sounded calm and not to come in yet, I knew and went in anyway. Lucky really because he was born an hour later! But with my first I didn’t know. I didn’t have a clue.

I was trapped in the middle of being very British and not wanting to waste anyone’s time, and being terrified I would have the baby at home and stain the rug in the living room!

when you are in labour

So here is how some other mums knew it was time to grab their notes and scream at their partner about bumpy roads en-route to the hospital.

Please note this post is in no way medically based advice. If you are unsure always consult with your midwife / hospital. If there’s one thing we can all agree on is that no two labours are the same.

Is it time to go to the hospital?

I knew it was time to go when I couldn’t talk through contractions any more.


When you can’t manage hula hooping on the Wii Fit anymore.

Edinburgh Mummy

I knew it was time when I was ringing the ward to TELL them I was on my way as opposed to the earlier phone call where I’d been asking their advice. The pain had simply got to a point where it wasn’t manageable anymore and I needed help.

Mummy to Dex

With one of mine I only knew I was in active labour when a little head appeared! Even the midwives were shocked – they were about to send me home!

Coffee, Cake, Kids

When you start thinking ‘WTF have I done?!’ 

Mama in Progress

I knew when I couldn’t sit still through them. I needed to get up and sway! Also, rather bizarrely, I started humming!

Mighty Mama Bear

When my waters broke. I knew then it was go time! 

Ever After With Kids

I knew it was time when I started cursing my hubby continuously.

Uplifting & Inspiring Content

Even the medics don’t know. I was at the hospital with no.2 as my waters had broken. The doctors sent my hubby home to look after our daughter saying nothing is happening here, she will be ages, we’ll call you when we need you. I delivered a 9 pound 6 baby boy 45 minutes later and hubby missed the whole thing.

Mums The Boss

I didn’t know with my first. My waters never broke, and contractions were never *exactly* the length of time apart that had been specified in the pre-natal classes, so I waited as I’m someone who faithfully follows instructions. After about ten hours at home with contractions, my husband eventually said maybe we should just go to the hospital anyway – arrived fully dilated with the baby’s head about to crown! 

The Bear & the Fox

I was in the bath with my first, shaking and getting awful pressure in my bum…so bad I was almost shaking with that too….my mum was like, ‘hmmm think she needs to go to hospital!!’ 8cm when I arrived and almost ready to push! With my second we knew the shakes meant the adrenaline was kicking in and time to move.

Run Jump Scrap

When I would shout at my other half to just stop talking to me. No thanks love, you’ve done enough.

That Little Outfit

When you can’t talk through a contraction, when your toes are curling, when YOU feel ready.

Midwife and Life

When I felt like I needed drugs!

Mole and Hedgehog

Mine was gripping doorways, once that began I knew I had to go in!

Our Transitional life

I knew I was in labour when the midwife bravely came up to me to tell me my throat was going to hurt after I’d had the baby because I was screaming THAT much! She was right, and the cup of tea I had after my baby was born was probably the best cup of tea I’ve EVER had.

Bump to Baby & Beyond

When you think that biting your husband is completely appropriate.

Then There Were Three

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How do you know when you are in labour? Real women talk about their experiences of pregnancy and childbirth and say how they knew when it was time to go to the hospital.




Claire Kirby

1 Comment on How do You Know When You Are in Labour?

  1. Well, I can see there is no straight forward signal to labor. Every woman has a unique labour style. I am just trusting God.

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