It may not be rocket science, but there are a few things you should know about timing contractions in labour – here are our top 5 doula tips.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TIMING
When timing contractions you are looking for two pieces of information – the length/duration of the contraction itself as well as the frequency – and here’s where lots of people get it wrong. For the frequency, it’s important to time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next (and not the end of one contraction and the beginning of the next).
MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER – DOWNLOAD AN APP
No need to pay for an app – a free one will do. Again you want to make sure that it tells you two things: the duration of a contraction and the frequency.
Our doula team uses the Contraction Counter and Timer 9M. It’s available both on iPhone and Android.
PUT THE TIMER AWAY IF IT’S EARLY LABOUR
Unless you’re noticing that your contractions are getting longer, stronger and closer together, don’t worry too much about timing them. It will be more important for you to rest if it’s early labour!
Contractions in early labour are typically short (less than one minute) and are not coming on consistently. The birthing person may have a contractions that lasts 45 seconds, and not have another one for 9 minutes, and then have another contraction lasting 60 seconds, and then a 7 minute break until the next one which may last 40 seconds and then there isn’t another one for 15 minutes. Sometimes early labour can even putter out. This is not uncommon for first time labourers. In fact, sometimes early labour can go on and off for days or weeks before it picks up. This is common and nothing to be concerned about if you and baby are otherwise healthy.
Be sure to also check out our blog post about Braxton Hicks contractions.
PARTNER’S – DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE LABOURING PERSON!
Having partners time contractions is a great task for them to do, but sometimes they get so focused on pressing the stop and start button that they forget to focus on the labouring person! So, if you’ve established that “yes, this just might be active labour”, put the timer down, call your doula for support, and follow the advice of your healthcare provider as to when to reach out to them.
5-1-1, 4-1-1 or 3-1-1: WHAT’S THE DEAL?
Your healthcare provider will tell you to reach out when you’re either at 5-1-1, 4-1-1 or 3-1-1. So, what do these numbers mean?
For our example we will use 4-1-1 which is typically a good indicator that you are in active labour (remember though every body is different and everyone’s situation is unique, so follow the advice of your healthcare provider).
The 4 refers to the frequency of contractions: they are 4 minutes apart.
The 1 refers to the duration of the contraction: it is lasting at least 1 minute.
The second 1 refers to the timeline: that you have been tracking this patter for at least 1 hour.
*Rarely, someone may not follow a predictable pattern of labour. Occasionally, the intensity of the contractions may be more than what’s typical, so if you are experiencing extremely painful contractions or pressure in your bum, even if your contractions are still irregular or short, reach out to your doula and healthcare provider for advice. *