The Trip to the Hospital While in Labor

Man driving pregnant woman in a car

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There is a lot of information about how to prepare for labor. There is also a ton of information written about how to deal with labor once you get to the hospital. This includes details of what to packhow to talk to the staff, and what to expect while you’re there.

The period of time between when the decision is made to go to the hospital and when you actually arrive is another story. Sure, there is information about planning for the ride, but what can you do to actually make the ride as comfortable as possible? (Remember, no matter where you fall in the medicated or unmedicated labor decision, the ride to the hospital is unmedicated for everyone.) Here are ten tips as a mother and as a doula who has supported many moms on this specific journey.

Know Where You're Going on the Road

Knowing where you’re going and how to get there will relieve some of the stress in the car. Fights have been known to break out over where to go and which road to take, all because mom had a preference. If she has a preference, take that road.

Make a Nest

Bringing along something to keep you comfortable in the car is a great idea. If you are worried that you will forget it, then leave a small kit in the car. Try a pillow, a blanket, and anything else that you might find comfortable. If you are worried about your water breaking while you are in the car, or if it’s been broken prior to getting in the car, you may worry about how to deal with the leaking. You can either wear a large pad in your underwear, use plastic-backed pads or even towels to cover your seats.

Play Music

Music can be a great boon to maintaining or promoting relaxation. Be sure to play some in the car, even if quietly in the background. You can use your music device, the radio or simply CDs. This is one time when the driver does not get to have control over the radio.

Bring Someone With You

If you can, have a friend ride with you or your doula. This is simply someone to help keep you calm, rub your back and assist you during contractions.

Go Slowly

This might sound counter-intuitive. But the road, the ride, everything can be more overwhelming when in labor. Some mothers actually prefer that you pull all the way over for a contraction while you’re driving. Unless there is a really good reason not to stop, pull over for the contraction. Yes, the ride will take longer, but it will also be more comfortable for mom.

Avoid Bumps

Avoid bumps, construction, and railroad tracks if you can. This is not always possible. When it isn’t possible, you should go as slowly as possible to minimize the pain for mom.

Hazards On

If you are not driving fairly normally, then you should put your hazards on. This allows other drivers to know that something is up. That way, if you are pulling over every three or four minutes on the expressway, it’s more expected and less likely to cause an accident.

If You Aren't Driving

Public transportation is a reality for some who don’t live where driving a car is feasible. Know what’s the best way to get to the hospital or birth center when in labor. This may be a bus, a subway, taxi, or rideshare service. Talk to those who are in your prenatal classes or are having their baby where you are about how they intend to get to the hospital.

If Mom Is Having the Baby Right Now

Pull the car over. Call 9-1-1 and they will help you, while at the same time dispatching someone to help you. While you may want to freak out, it’s best not to do it while driving.

Know Where to Go Once There

Once you make it to the hospital, be sure that you know where you are going. Where should you park? What entrance should you go to once there? Will someone be waiting for you?

A Word From Verywell

Once you are at the place of birth, you can safely rely on your birth plan to help you. Even though this ride may have been a short one, or perhaps a not so short ride, it will mean a very different set of circumstances when you leave with your baby.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.