Mother and Baby

How to time your contractions (no stopwatch required!)

Section: Labour & Birth

Timing your contractions can give you a better idea of what stage of labour you’re at – and let you know when it’s time to head to hospital. So, download an app (or keep an eye on the clock) and get timing…

OK, so contractions aren’t the nicest sensation in the world, but each cramp is an indication that you’ll soon get to meet your baby. It now pays off to be time-obsessive and keep track of how often they happening – and how long they last.

The closer your contractions are together, the closer you are to giving birth....hooray!

When should you start timing contractions?

Start timing contractions as soon as you’ve had two or three and they seem quite regular.  ‘If you’ve had one or two wait for the third – by then you’ll know if it’s real!,’ says Cheryl MacDonald, founder of Birth Rocks.

Your contractions will probably feel like a mix between a really bad period and constipation

Your contractions will probably feel like a mix between a really bad period and constipation. The pain may begin in your lower back and move toward your stomach or stay in your back area – it’s different with each woman.

Read more: 8 mums describe how contractions felt for them 
To start with, they’ll probably last around a minute and happen every 15 minutes or so. However, it’s important to remember that there isn’t a set pattern so don’t worry if they’re not regular.

What's the best way to time contractions?

There are lots of apps you can download to keep track of your contractions – leaving you to breathe through each one. Hallelujah for technology! If you want to go old school and use a stopwatch, get your partner involved by arming them with a pen and paper.
‘You don’t have to time them all the way through the labour process as the main purpose of timing them is to determine if you’re actually in labour so once you know the answer – then you can stop,’ says Cheryl.
Mother&Baby recommends: Full Term - Contraction Timer, Free, Apple

At what point should you go to the hospital?

Head to the hospital when your contractions come every five or six minutes. ‘If they’re irregular, it could mean that you’re having Braxton Hicks and it’s a false labour,’ says Cheryl. But its always safer to call the hospital to check.

Now read:

What are Braxton Hicks contractions and how to tell the difference

The four breathing techniques you need for labour

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