How are you timing your contractions?

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-01-2010
How are you timing your contractions?
10
Wed, 07-06-2011 - 12:46pm

Naive question, but how do you time your contractions?

With my first, contractions didn't start until we were already in the hospital so I never had to time any of them.

This time around, I know I'm supposed to wait for "5-1-1" (unless water breaks first, then just go to hosp).
And frankly, if I am having contractions, I just cannot see spending a solid hour (or hourS) staring at a stop watch for every contraction and doing the subtraction every few minutes-- how annoying!!!

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-15-2010
I really don't bother with timing my contractions until they feel pretty close together and strong. Even then, I definitely don't do it for an hour! Maybe half an hour at the most.
 BabyFetus Ticker
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Registered: 01-12-2006
You time them from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the 2nd contraction. This is an important distinction as sometime people time from the end of one to the beginning of the next ... and this is not technically the correct way to time them.

For me, I timed them some at first to get an idea of how far a part they were. With my first my water had already broken but I'd been instructed to still wait until my contractions were closer together because they longer you're in the hospital the more opportunity for medical intervention.

At any rate, I've had quick labors with both kids. My first started with contractions about 6-7 minutes a part. And then all of a sudden they were 3-4 minutes a part. But I still "felt fine". Considering my water had already broken and then were now 3-4 minutes a part I said we should go ahead and go in but in general I wasn't rushing or anything. Planning on a 10+ hour labor for my first baby, I was busy looking for a specific box of trivial pursuit cards that I planned to pass the time with DH. But suddenly I "felt" different. My sense of urgency changed dramatically, and I knew I needed to go to the hospital.

With Bradley training they talk about this change in terms of emotional sign posts. Early labor mom is contracting and talking and generally fine. It's noted with a :-) But in middle / active labor mom's emotions change to serious / all business. This is generally when you go to the hospital, and this is when contractions frequently are in the range of 5-1-1. It's noted with a straight face :-l And then there's transition, which can usually be seen when mom become frantic, maybe fearful, if mom is planning an unmedicated birth this is when she's most likely to doubt her ability to go on, etc. It's noted with a sad / crying face :-(

In neither of my labors have I had a 5-1-1 moment. I followed my emotional sign posts. With my first, I hadn't been in labor at all barely more than an hour, but I suddenly knew it was time to go ... I was 7 1/2 cm when I got to the hospital (and contracting every 90 seconds by the time we got there ... I sense they were getting close and I was getting anxious about getting to the hospital and began timing them again).

With number 2 my contractions started about every 2-3 minutes. I wasn't sure whether to expect a really , really fast labor (less than the 5 1/2 hours of my first one ... or if another 5 hour labor would be expected). I was afraid of a really fast labor so we went in earlier just to be safe. I was still very much in my :-) sign post when we got there. But I was already at 6 cm. I started to become more internal w/ contractions but still probably wouldn't have gone to the hospital until my water had broken (at about 8 cm), because that's when I really felt the change ... but I kind of skipped the whole :-l sign post and went straight from :-) to :-(

Which is a really long winded way of saying, time some to get a sense of how close they are. But then pay attention to how you feel. Maybe every 30-45 minutes you can take a new baseline to see how close they are. But I don't think -imo - it's necessary to sit there with a stop watch. On the other hand, there are many apps for the iphone where you can just touch a button at the beginning of a contraction. It keeps track of everything for you. So you could probably do that even if you were just sitting watching tv.

Some people are probably more comfortable watching the progression of their contractions. Mine have always been too erratic for that to be effective.
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-01-2010
Wonderful ideas, tlb! Thanks for the full post & I enjoyed your birth stories punctuated by the faces-- that is going to stick in my head, remembering those emotional signposts! I was actually wondering if I could really rely on my "feelings" to let me know when things are getting seriuos. I think I'd have a tendancy to want to get to the hospital sooner than later. I know I don't want any extra interventions, but I find the hospital a relaxing place to be-- I can calm down there knowing if anything happens wrong or real fast, I will be helped & taken care of.

Funny you skipped a whole :-| phase with your second!

I also have read SO many varied birth stories, it's hard to imagine anything goes according to any plan or set of posts.

Good idea to just do a little timing here and there for my own reference & additional info!!

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-16-2009

This will sound really naive given this is #4 for me, but what is 5-1-1? 5 minutes of 1 minute long contrax for one hour?

LOL. I never would have made it to the hospital for #2 if I did that... nearly did not make it to the hospital for #1... Of course, with that one, I went from water breaking almost directly to transition...

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-01-2010
"I will start a clock; make 5 slashes (one per contraction); stop the clock and average them...one hour"

Brilliance. That may not say the length of each, but if they feel "strong" in any way at least I'll know how many per "hour" (or per 20 minutes or something)

Okay so many people have referred to "pushing contraction" -- does this actually feel in any way different from the previous contractions?? what IS the difference????

With my #1 - The doc checked me, said I was just a lip short of 10cm, then she manually pushed that lip out of the way, declared I was 10cm and said to go ahead and start pushing. I had been expecting an urge to push or a sign, but the doc said GO so I started pushing on every single contraction after that... and pushed a Long Dang Time.

So instead of having a doc say "you're at 10, now go!"

Could I wait until I feel a change? how in the world do you know the contractions change to push instead of open?

Molly



iVillage Member
Registered: 11-01-2010
oh and Yes, 5-1-1, (I think) is supposed to be when you call the doc or head to the hospital, at contacractions that are 5 minutes apart (12 per hour, 6 per half hour), and 1 minute long, and consistently for an hour.

I don't know if I would be comfortable with a whole hour of strong contractions staying at home

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-07-2011
I wouldn't feel comfortable waiting an hour. But for me, when the contractions give me sharp pains in my pubic area, I know it is time to go. I don't bother timing them if they feel that way.
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-16-2009

Just my opinion, but your doctor was EVIL!

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-12-2006
I actually know there technically is a difference, but despite two unmedicated and one fairly "natural" labor, I can't say that I've felt the distinction of a pushing contraction. In my first labor they were so worried about baby's heart rate they had me pushing as soon as I was fully dilated (although I do remember that baby's head was 1/2 out and the contraction ended and they wanted me to keep pushing and I simply refused ... I felt pretty good in my moment of relaxation!).

With number 2 the midwife said that I could "labor down" as long as I wanted but that if I would start pushing, it would end sooner ... and end sooner sounded good. I only pushed for 1/2 an hour or so (if that long), but the contractions didn't really feel any different, which has always had me thinking that I was pushing 'too early".

This is my last baby, and I'm interested to see if I can manage to wait for those "pushing" contractions at the end.
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-16-2009

I'm starting to feel a certain advantage of having fast progression labors that I never appreciated.