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Timing of Your Contractions


Dr. Randall

Your contractions let you know that you’re progressing in your labor, and keeping track of them is one of the ways that your labor coach can help. Be sure to use a watch with a second hand or a stopwatch. Many people find it easier to keep track of the contractions by writing the information down. It’s not necessary to time each and every contraction, as long as your coach has a general idea of your contraction pattern and if it’s changing. Your coach will be monitoring three things: the frequency, the duration, and the intensity of your contractions.

Frequency refers to the amount of time between the beginning of one contraction and the beginning of the next contraction. Some coaches find it easier to note the start and finish of each contraction, while others may just keep track of the start times.

The duration of a contraction is the time from the beginning to the end of the contraction, usually measured in seconds. Now this is important information because the duration of your contractions will lengthen while the frequency increases, as you get further into active labor.

Intensity, as you might guess, is the strength or force of your contraction. The intensity is usually described as mild, moderate, or strong. This can be determined by feeling your abdomen during a contraction.

A rough guideline is that a mild contraction is short in duration and you usually don’t need to use breathing techniques through it. Your abdomen will feel slightly firm, but still indentable, similar to pressing your index finger against the fleshy part of your cheek.

A moderate contraction is longer in duration than a mild contraction, and you may need to use breathing techniques through it. Your abdomen will feel firmer and it’s usually only slightly indentable. It may feel similar to pressing the end of your nose with your index finger.

Strong contractions usually last at least 40 to 60 seconds. You’ll probably need to use your breathing techniques through these. You won’t be able to indent your abdomen with your finger, and it often feels similar to pressing on your forehead with your index finger.