This post is going to tell you when to call labor and delivery if you CAN call L&D for questions, some of the reasons to go in — and, we’ll talk about the reason to go to the hospital for labor.
When to Call Labor and Delivery
You might wonder why I know this — and that is a GOOD question. Hi, I’m Hilary. I’ve been an L&D nurse (RN) since 2001 and have probably seen thousands of pregnant mammas. I run triage at the hospital frequently, so I know what to watch for.
I’m excited to give you some ideas of what to watch for, as well as to come up with some questions for your OB (I will refer to your health care provider as a doctor in this post, but rest assured I am a big fan of certified nurse midwives, doctors or whoever you’re seeing for your appointments). Feel free to substitute “health provider” in any of these scenarios.
Also because everyone is an individual — please ask your doctor these questions for your specific circumstances.
BTW, if you wish you had a labor nurse to ask questions of all the time — check out this course. It’s changing the anxiety moms feel about L&D.
Table of contents
Can you call labor and delivery for questions?
The per-policy answer: no.
You have to remember that labor and delivery nurses are concerned with one thing (besides your health and safety) — liability.
We aren’t really supposed to answer questions on the phone.
You could come back and say the nurse said to stay at home a bit, and your baby had issues and then you sue us.
Hence, we mostly tell you to call your doctor, or to come in if you are concerned.
OB doctors should have someone one for them 24/7. It might not be YOUR doctor who replies to your call, but it should be someone.
This is something you should ask your OB at your first visit. Ask them if there is a number you can use to get hold of them 24/7.
Normally, you’d call the number and the answering service will give your number to the on call OB, who will return your call. Now, keep in mind that in the evenings and nights that return call may take a while to get back to you.
That doctor may be in surgery or delivering babies consecutively, so don’t freak out if you don’t get a call right back.
ALSO, use that line very sparingly. That isn’t the place to call if you need a refill or have a question that can easily wait til’ the next appointment with your OB.
Reasons to go to labor and delivery
1. If your baby isn’t moving
Make sure you’re doing kick counts — and if you aren’t making the 10 movements in 2 hours (or if it’s off a LOT from what it is normally) call your doctor, and if they’re not back to in a few minutes, I’d call L&D — or go in.
We take decreased fetal movement very seriously, and we want you to as well.
2. Severe Vomiting
If you really can’t keep anything down for a full day I’d call your doctor. This is different than morning sickness.
However, even with morning sickness, you should ask your doctor at what point you should be concerned, based on what he/she has you on.
Regular vomiting/stomach flu/food poisoning can still be helped with the info in this post.
3. A headache that won’t go away
This can be an indicator of preeclampsia. It can also be dehydration or the hot dog you ate, so before you freak out:
- Take a Tylenol
- Drink 3 GIANT glasses of water
- Eat something
- Try to take a nap
If none of those work, I’d call your doctor (and if a headache is REALLY bad, I’d just go to L&D).
You don’t want to call your doctor for any little contraction.
But, if you’re less than 36 weeks, Md’s like to see less than 6 contractions in an hour. If you’re having more than that, I’d call your MD.
If you’re feeling contractions — make sure you:
- Drink two GIANT glasses of water (often, they are caused by dehydration)
- Eat something with a good balance of protein and carbs
- Take it easy — don’t over-do it!
If you’re still feeling them, call your doctor!
5. Facial swelling
If you suddenly wake up and your face is REALLY swollen. I’d call your doctor. This can be another sign of preeclampsia.
I probably wouldn’t go racing into L&D for this, but it’s worth a call and likely a follow-up appointment with your doctor.
** Gradual facial swelling is normal — I’m talking you wake-up and your face is suddenly very swollen.
6. If you think your water broke.
7. Problems with your pee
- You can’t pee
- You feel like you need to pee all the time
- Lower abdominal cramping
- Flank pain
This can be an indicator of a bladder infection. Often you can just drop off a urine sample, and they can see if there are issues.
8. If you have a fever over 100.4
Having a high fever when you’re pregnant can be extra problematic, so give them a ring — see what they recommend!
9. Bright red bleeding
Some bleeding can be normal — especially after:
- an internal exam (done by your doctor)
But, if you’re getting bright red bleeding that is much larger than the size of a quarter, I’d call your doctor. If you’re soaking a pad — just go right into L&D.
Pro tip: Brown bleeding isn’t as worrisome, and may be part of losing your mucus plug.
10. Crazy Itchy
Now, mosquito bites are one thing, but itchy palms and feet can often be an indicator of an issue with your bile ducts, which can be problematic. Call your Md. If you just feel REALLY itchy and benedryl isn’t doing anything, call your MD.
11. You have alarms going off in your head
Now, this is one that ‘s kind of hard to write about — but if you really feel like SOMETHING IS WRONG, call your doctor or head to L&D.
Now, on your way in — you need to be able to articulate what it is that is causing this. Is it pain, lack of movement, anything like that?
Pregnancy can be full of anxiety, so I really wouldn’t recommend coming to L&D for any little thing, but sometimes mamma hearts just know. And we want you to have a safe baby.
12. Whatever else your doctor says to watch for.
Pregnancy is full of complications, and everyone’s situation is very different. Your doctor may have specific things that YOU need to watch for — so watch for this, and take action if need be.
How to get admitted to labor and delivery
This one gets googled a lot.
Yup, you can come in and lie, but we like mammas to go the full 40 anymore. SO it really is hard to cheat the system of L&D at this point.
You can’t fake contractions, you can’t fake preeclampsia, you can’t fake a lot of stuff. Usually, the nurse that runs triage is one of the most experienced nurses. Don’t undervalue that and be thoughtful to show up only when their care is nescessary.
When to go to the hospital in labor
I wish there were hard and fast rules on this, but I would 100% make sure you ask your doctor about this once you hit about 23 weeks or so. It will be based on:
- How far you are from the hospital
- What number baby it is for you
- Your past history
- Your current obstetrical history, and if there is anything you need to be watching out for.
- Doctor preference
This issue is gone into detail in this prenatal class if you want more info — but since every situation is different, I’d recommend asking your doctor at your OB visit.
When to call labor and delivery if you’re high risk
If you have something going on during your pregnancy — you need to have some clear guidelines as to when you should call him/her or when you should go into labor and delivery.
Things like this can be:
- Placenta Previa
- Breech Baby
- High blood pressure
- And the list goes on….
So, make SURE to talk to your doctor about all of this!
If you have more questions about when to go to the hospital, or what they will do there — check out this best-selling prenatal course where it will answer almost every question you have (you can even ask questions from within the course and get answers pretty quickly!)
When to Call Labor and Delivery FAQ’s
This is the question we get most often in L&D. I answer it in this post.
You likely have a bladder infection, which is not unusual in pregnancy but can be problematic. Call your MD.
I answered that in this post — but in short:
Less than 36 weeks contractions of more than 6 in an hour.
Bright red bleeding
Headache that won’t go away with tylenol, water and food
See the rest of the post for more info!
And, if you’re thinking about decisions you’ll make AT delivery, be sure to check out my birth plan worksheet:
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