If you think that you are going into labor, then your contraction count can help the doctor in determining whether or not you should go to the hospital for delivery. A clock or stopwatch can keep track of the contractions frequency and duration, but it may not be precise. Therefore, a reliable tool is designed to assist moms-to-be to calculate their contractions.
MomJunction provides the contraction timer, a tool that automatically records contractions for you. You can even download and print your count and share it with your doctor, friends, or family.
• Click the "Start counting" button when you feel a tightening sensation (you can either feel it from inside or with your hand on the belly). This is the beginning of one contraction.
• Click the "Stop counting" button when you feel the relaxation of the uterus.
• Repeat the same as the contractions continue, to check the interval of the contractions.
At least six to eight readings are required to know the pattern of contractions that includes duration (length of contraction) and frequency (how far apart the contractions are).
What are Contractions during Labor?
Labor contractions are periodic tightening and relaxing of uterine muscles, which are stimulated by the oxytocin hormone released by the pituitary gland. They begin as cramps in the back and move along the abdomen in a wave-like manner. The abdomen becomes very hard. They are periodic, each contraction is followed by a period of relaxation. The contractions tighten and thicken the upper part of the uterus (fundus) while stretching and relaxing the lower portion and cervix. These series of contractions help the baby pass through the birth canal.
It could be difficult to differentiate between true labor contractions and false contractions, also known as Braxton Hicks contractions, which occur in the weeks nearing childbirth. These false contractions are irregular and vary in intensity. Some women actually feel they are going into labor due to these contractions (1).
However, the important distinguishing factor is progression. Unlike false contractions, true contractions get stronger, longer, and closer with time.
Except for some contractions that occur before the water breaking, you can be sure you are having labor contractions. You can even measure them easily with a calculator, instead of a clock or watch, to check how far you are into your labor.
How are contractions timed?
Try timing a few contractions. Then start counting from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next. You will know you are in true labor if your contractions:
• Happen at regular periods
• Get stronger
• Last longer
• Become more frequent
• Continue even if you change positions, lie down, or walk
The figure is based on a simple formula of 4-1-2 rule, that means
• Contractions are four minutes apart
• Each contraction lasts for one minute
• This pattern remains for at least two hours
Here is when your active labor starts where you can no longer hold a conversation or relax completely, and can go into labor.
What are preterm labor contractions?
If you begin to have regular contractions that result in cervical changes before 37 weeks of pregnancy, they are known to be preterm contractions. Changes in the cervix include both effacement and dilation that send you into preterm labor (2).
True contractions begin at the back and spread towards the abdomen. Braxton Hicks are only in the belly and can cause hardening in a part of the belly. They are mostly not painful. You will get around four to five contractions at a time and then they disappear. True contractions, however, get stronger, closer, and more painful with time (3).
Braxton Hicks, also known as false labor, prepares the body for the work that lies ahead. These contractions are irregular and short, and are not very painful. The Braxton Hicks Contractions begin in the 5th or 7th month and go on until delivery.
Going into labor is like period pains, with pain ranging from mild to severe. It differs in every woman. You will have a backache, or cramps, or both. Or you will also feel heaviness or ache in the lower part of the tummy.
Braxton Hicks is usually felt in the front and groin area. It can also originate in the back, but never moves to the front.
If your contraction timing is three to four minutes apart and does not cease even after walking or lying on your left side, you could be in labor. It’s time for you to contact your gynecologist or get into the hospital.
You must give your doctor the details of your contraction, and whether or not your contractions are getting longer and coming closer together.
Note: Do not start at the middle or end of a contraction. If you’ve missed the first, wait for the next contraction to begin.
A contraction calculator does not directly assist a natural birth. Instead, it tracks the contractions, giving you or your healthcare provider an idea about the progress of labor.
Although there are no serious disadvantages to using a contraction calculator, being too conscious about tracking and timing the contractions may make one anxious or stressed. Additionally, pain perceptions may differ from one person to another, and the interpretations may not be accurate.
A contraction calculator can be used for hospital births to help women in labor track the frequency and duration of their contractions. It may provide useful information for healthcare providers to monitor labor's progress and decide about using pain management techniques, such as epidural anesthesia.
The information provided by our Contraction Timer should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice given by your physician. If you have any queries or doubts, contact your healthcare provider right away!