Awaiting the birth of a baby is an exciting and anxious time. Most women give birth between 38 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. However, there is no way to know exactly when you will go into labor. Birth often occurs within 2 weeks before or after your expected due date.

Making Plans

As you plan for the birth of your baby, you can take steps to help your labor go more smoothly. It is best to discuss your questions about labor with your health care team before the time comes:

  • When should I call my doctor?
  • How can I reach the doctor or nurse after office hours?
  • Should I go directly to the hospital or call the office first?
  • Are there any special steps I should follow when I think I am in labor?

Before it is time to go to the hospital, there are many things to think about. You may not have time to think about them once labor begins, so it is best to consider them ahead of time.

  • Distance – how far do you live from the hospital?
  • Transportation – is there someone who can take you at any time, or do you have to call and find someone?
  • Time of day – depending on where you live, may it take longer during rush hours than at other times of the day or night?
  • Home arrangements – do you have other children to take to a babysitter’s home, or do you have to make any special arrangements?
  • Work arrangements – do you have a plan for how your workload will be covered and for letting your coworkers know when you have had the baby?

It may be a good idea to rehearse going to the hospital to get a sense of howling it could take. Plan a different route you can follow to the hospital if there are delays on the regular route.

How Labor begins

No one knows exactly what causes labor to start, although changes in hormones may play a role. Most women can tell when they are in labor. Sometimes, it is hard to tell when labor begins. As labor begins, the cervix opens (dilates). The uterus, which is a muscle, contracts at regular intervals. When it contracts, the abdomen becomes hard. Between the contractions, the uterus relaxes and becomes soft. Even up to the start of labor and during early labor, the baby will continue to move.

Certain changes may also signal that labor is beginning. As labor begins, the cervix dilates (opens). It is measured in centimeters – from 0 centimeters (no dilation) to 10 centimeters (full dilation). The uterus contracts on and off. You may or may not notice some of them before labor begins.


You are nearing a special, exciting time. Although it is not possible to know exactly when labor will begin, you can be ready by knowing what to expect. Being prepared can make it easier for you to relax and focus on the arrival of your baby when the time comes. Contact us if you have any questions or to set up an appointment.