Guide to Laboring at Home

February 15, 2022

I often get asked, “What tips do you have to help with laboring at home as long as possible before going to the hospital?” This is one of the BIGGEST reasons couples hire a doula and take a childbirth class. We discuss this topic more in-depth during my classes and our prenatal appointments. I want to share a few of these tips with you.

How to Labor at Home as Long as Possible:

Why should you labor at home?

Before we dive into the “How”, let’s talk about the “Why”.

  1. Oxytocin: Oxytocin is what is considered to be the love hormone and it is also the hormone that causes contractions. Being in your home, where you feel loved and comfortable. This will help you stay relaxed it will help your labor progress easier and faster. The farther along in labor you are when you go to the hospital the less likely your labor will slow down. You can wait until you are in a really good active labor pattern before going to the hospital. Odds are that your labor will continue to progress and the release of oxytocin will continue.
  2. Less Pitocin: Women who labor at home well into the active stage of labor are less likely to need Pitocin to strengthen or augment their labor.
  3. Unmedicated Birth: Women who labor at home are more likely to have medicated births. This means they are less likely to have synthetic drugs or an epidural to deal with the pains of labor. Most of the time this is because she has learned to cope with the contractions at home and she will continue coping with them when she is admitted to the hospital. I like to call this “being in the zone”. She is focused and can push through.
  4. Coping with Pain: There is something about being able to labor at home that helps women cope with pain better. I believe it is because they are in the comfort of their home where there is less fear and a better sense of peace. There are fewer distractions, bright lights, and questions being asked. Women tend to be able to cope with the pains of labor easier at home.
  5. VBAC: If you are planning on having a VBAC (vaginal birth after a cesarean) it is recommended by midwives that you labor at home as long as possible. VBAC patients are monitored more closely. They more likely to have interventions, which unfortunately increase the chances of a repeat c-section. A doula is a KEY Component in being able to labor at home as long as possible.

Why is this important?

This leads me to a crucial point…. You must listen to your body! Go to the hospital if you ever feel that something is not right. If you feel that contractions are stronger than you can handle. Don’t hesitate!

Laboring at home as long as possible because you are fearful of the hospital and/or the staff- you are laboring at home for the wrong reasons. Always base your decisions on loving yourself and your baby! Don’t base them on fear. If for some reason you feel uncomfortable or don’t trust your care provider or their team, or the hospital, choose a new one! It is NEVER TOO LATE!!

Tips for Arriving at the Hospital During Transition

Are you planning on laboring at home for as long as possible? Then your goal is to arrive when you are in active labor or in early transition. The following are some tips to help you be prepared to make this transition easier.

  1. Take a Childbirth Class: Taking a childbirth class will help educate you on the different stages of labor and what to expect. This is key information to know if you plan on laboring at home for as long as possible. You will learn about coping skills or techniques, how to support a laboring mom, the process of labor and so much more. Taking a childbirth class will give you a good solid foundation and understanding of the labor and birth process. (Childbirth Classes are offered through Birthing Days)
  2. Hire a Doula: Hiring a doula is a fantastic way to help you successfully labor at home longer. Doulas have attended many births and supported many women through labor. They are trained to help women to feel as comfortable as possible during labor. (Learn more about Labor & Birth Support.)

  3. Being Prepared: Having your hospital bag packed and ready to go a few weeks or so before your due date is a good idea. Your partner can always grab last-minute things like phone chargers, wallets, pillows, towels to sit on in the car, etc., while mom is laboring inside the home. When the decision to go to the hospital is made, everyone should be able to get into the care and go within a couple of minutes.
  4. Timing Contractions: One of the best ways to know when to go to the hospital is by timing your contractions. There are a lot of great apps to help you time your contractions. Some of my favorites are Full Term and Contraction Timer. When using these apps, you have to push start when the contraction starts and stop with it eases up. The app will do all the calculations for you. Time Between Contractions: The first thing you need to look for when timing contractions is the time between them. Contractions are measured from the start of one to the start of the next. Consider waiting till your contractions are 4 minutes apart before going to the hospital.
    Length of Contractions: Another thing to keep in mind is how long contractions are lasting. In early labor contractions typically last about 30 seconds. During active labor contractions last about a minute. During transition contractions last about 90 seconds or longer. When your contractions are around 4 minutes apart and lasting for about 60 seconds or longer it might be time to head to the hospital.

    4-1-1: To put this all together, when your contractions are 4 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute, for 1 hour- you might want to go to the hospital. This is what I call the “4-1-1 Rule”.

  5. Mom’s Mood and Deminer Between Contractions: Sometimes, when contractions are 4 minutes apart, it may not be time to head to the hospital. One way to determine this is to pay attention to mom’s mood and deminer between contractions. Normally, during active labor contractions, mom is working hard to cope, breathe, etc., but between contractions, she is in a good mood, talkative, and generally her normal self. However, if her mood changes BETWEEN contractions that is when it is time to pay attention.

  6. Movement of Mom: Paying attention to how fast or slow mom is moving during labor is also a good indication of when to go to the hospital. In my experience, when a mom is progressing through labor she tends to move slower the closer she gets to transition and the pushing stage.

  7. Focused and Checked Out: If you are in labor and you can continue texting and staying connected with friends and family or on social media, it is most likely not time to head to the hospital. When things start getting more intense, you will not have the ability and/or brainpower to stay connected. You will become focused completely on the task of hand-having a baby.

  8. Trying to Stop or Slow Labor: If you are unsure of when to go to the hospital, try to see if you can slow or stop your labor. If you can, it definitely not time to go to the hospital. You can try drinking a glass of water, taking a bath or shower, napping, or even going for a walk. If you find that your contractions stay the same or become stronger, then you are in labor and you need to watch for the other signs we have talked about.
  9. Signs of Transition: There are some distinct symptoms or signs of transitions to look for:

    Long contractions lasting around 90 seconds
    Contractions are getting closer together, around 2-3 minutes apart
    ”Double peaking” during a contraction
    Due to “double peaking” you are not getting a break between contractions
    Hot and sweaty
    Cold and shaky
    Nausea/Vomiting
    Crying
    Can’t get comfortable
    Contractions increase when changing positions
    Afraid to move/change positions
    Looking for a way out
    Water breaking
    Discouraged or wanting to give up
    Irrational thoughts or behavior
    Asking for pain medication

  10. You’ll know: There have been many times that I get a phone call asking me to come to a client’s home while they are in labor to help determine if it is time to go to the hospital. While on my drive to their home I get another call saying that they decided to go in because it became obvious that it was time to go. They just knew!

    If you have a gut feeling it is time to go to the hospital…by all means GO!

Tips From Your Doula

It is important to pay attention to how you are feeling during labor. If at any point you feel like you need to go to the hospital do not hesitate. Trust your instincts!! Take a childbirth class so you can better understand and be aware of the signs to look for. Hire a doula!!! They are pretty darn amazing if you ask me.

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