If Hollywood told the truth, labor pains would start and the baby would be born just minutes later. Thanks to the art of editing, this is how reality shows on pregnancy often depict birth as well. In all reality, labor is broken up into several stages. The first stage, when mom starts feeling real labor pains, can last between 10 and 14 hours. Once through this first stage, it is time for mom to head off to the hospital.
The first stage of labor starts with light contractions that come at 20 to 25 minute intervals. These contractions may only last 15 to 30 seconds, but the woman will soon realize there is a pattern to the pain. Once the pattern is recognized, heading to the hospital may seem like the next best step. Stage one of labor can last a long time and most doctors and hospitals will just send mom back home until the contractions start getting stronger and closer together.
After the initial stage of labor moves from light contractions to stronger contractions that last a minute or more, the cervix may start to change, open and efface. This is when the woman should head off to the hospital. There is still plenty of time before birth, so there is no need to race through red lights and stop signs. The second stage of labor progresses faster than the first and soon the contractions last up to two minutes and occur every two minutes. If the woman is not at the hospital by the time contractions are two minutes apart, it may be time to call the ambulance because baby is coming.
Preparing for the trip to the hospital can ease some of mom and dad’s anxiety. Preparation can include packing a suitcase and an outfit or two for baby in advance. Diapers, wipes and formula if bottle feeding, will be supplied by the hospital and do not need to be packed.