How to Time Contractions

Timing your contractions will help you keep track of what is happening with your delivery. This means both determining the frequency of contractions and their duration. Frequency is measured by counting the minutes from the start of one contraction to the start of your next one. You measure the duration by counting the seconds from when you start to feel a contraction and then noting when it ends.

You do not need to time your entire labor but you should know how to time contractions when they start to form a pattern or if the type of contractions you are experiencing have started to change. This will help you get an idea of when you can expect your next contraction as well as narrow down when it is time to go to the hospital.

What Will Contractions Feel Like?

There are three types of contractions which include practice, false and genuine contractions. You only need to time real contrations, which are signs of labor:

  • ŸPractice contractions are known as Braxton Hicks contractions. These can begin around the middle of your pregnancy as your body prepares for labor. Not all women will experience these.
  • ŸFalse contractions could occur up to labor to ripen the cervix though they will not cause cervical effacement or dilation. These will often stop if you change positions.
  • ŸReal contractions. You will know you are having real contractions if they continue to intensify regardless of your activity or position. They should also continue to become more regular, frequent and intense with time. They may cause a bloody show or pinkish bloody mucus to appear. They could also cause pain in the lower back or abdomen which leads to diarrhea, upset stomach or cramps.

What real contractions feel like: Contractions often start in the lower back and move in waves to the abdomen. Some may say the feeling is like menstrual cramps or constipation. The pains should buildup and then subside, causing the abdomen to become rigid. Contractions feel different to everyone but most last for 60-90 seconds and increase in frequency as labor begins. As you get closer to your due date you may notice your contractions start to form a pattern which will allow you to tell you are going into labor.

Here is a video to share with you about how to know if you are having contractions:

How to Time Contractions

1.      Methods of Timing Contractions

  • Use a timer. When you feel your abdomen start to tighten start a timer and stop when the feeling stops. Start the timer again when you feel the start of the next contraction to determine how far apart they are.
  • Technological options. Install a contraction master on your computer which can be started and stopped when you feel a contraction begin. This uses the same methodology as a stopwatch but the computer will calculate the contractions for you and will let you know when it’s time to go to the hospital.
  • Take the average. Noting the average time between contractions will help you see if the time between them is increasing or if your contractions are regular. You do not need to leave for the hospital until you are experiencing regular contractions but you might want to inform your doctor if you are starting to experience contractions more consistently. They will tell you what to look for so you can determine if labor is coming.

2.      Procedures of Timing Contractions

  • Choose a timer and create a chart. You can use any device to measure the time between contractions but you want to find something precise so you can measure them to the second. You can also create a chart to record this information. Include a space for the time started, time ended, duration and time between contractions.
  • Start at the beginning of the contraction. Do not time a contraction that has already started or is coming to an end. If you miss the start time of a contraction wait for the next one to measure the timing.

You should call your health practitioner or go to the hospital if any of the following occur:

  • ŸYour water breaking before labor begins
  • ŸContractions that become increasingly strong weeks before your due date
  • ŸYour umbilical cord has slipped into the vaginal canal or cervix
  • ŸThe water breaks with a greenish-brown tint

Click here to know more about contractions. If you want to know more about how to time contractions, you can watch the video below: