Your Ultimate Contractions Timing Toolkit

Your Ultimate Contractions Timing Toolkit

Ready or not, contractions are coming! As you inch closer to your due date, these little reminders that baby's on the way start making their debut. But fear not because mastering the art of timing contractions is your ticket to labour ninja status.

As your due date draws near, the anticipation of labour intensifies and this is when the contractions begin. Understanding how to time these rhythmic sensations is like having a backstage pass to your baby's grand entrance because contractions help reveal the progress of your labour. They are your ticket to knowing when to make that exciting journey to the hospital.

Plus, mastering the art of contraction timing helps decipher between the real deal and those pesky false alarms, ensuring you're prepared for every twist and turn of this incredible journey into motherhood.

Birth Contractions Unveiled

What are these mysterious contractions, you ask? Well, think of them as your body's way of gearing up for the grand finale of pregnancy. They're like little practice runs for the big event. But beware because sometimes, these contractions can be sneaky pranksters, teasing you with false alarms.

The Sneaky Practice Contractions

Practice (false) contractions, more commonly known in the UK as Braxton Hicks, tend to arrive in the second trimester or third trimester of pregnancy.

These mischievous practice contractions, unlike the real deal, are irregular and unpredictable, leaving you questioning if it's "go time." Learning to time these sneaky contractions is like adding another tool to your pregnancy toolkit, helping you and your midwife distinguish between a practice run and the real show.

Hormones and Contractions & The Dance of Labour

When a contraction happens your body releases a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone stimulates your uterus which makes it contract. Contractions help move your baby down into the birth canal and thin your cervix to get your body ready for delivery.

When your body releases oxytocin it is signalling that it's showtime. These contractions are like nature's way of prepping for the grand finale, nudging your baby down the birth canal and prepping your cervix for delivery. Typically starting around week 39, these contractions are your body's way of saying, "Ready or not, here comes baby!"

Watch out for the difference: real contractions don't mess around, coming at regular intervals and packing a punch with each passing moment.

When you have a real contraction you will feel a wave (of pain!). Contraction pain tends to start low, increase to its peak, and then dissolves away. Your abdomen will feel hard under the hand if touched during a contraction.

The difference between true labour contractions and Braxton Hicks is the behaviour of the space between contractions. Real contractions tend to be evenly spaced apart (e.g. every 3 minutes), and the time between the contractions gets shorter and shorter. Real contractions also become much more intense and painful as time passes.


Extra Clues You're in for the Labour Ride

Keep your eyes peeled for these tell-tale signs that your little one is ready to make their grand entrance:

  • Spotting a mucus-filled discharge tinged with vibrant red or deep brown a.k.a the “bloody show.”
  • Sensing a shift as your baby drops lower into your pelvis.
  • Noticing a trickle of fluid from down below—could be a sign your water's broken (grab that hospital bag!).
  • Feeling a sudden shift as your baby descends into your lower belly.
  • Experiencing frequent bathroom trips and a touch of tummy trouble—nature's way of clearing the runway.
  • Embracing a burst of restless energy—your body's last-minute prep for the big moment!

When to Kickstart Contractions Counting

When it comes to timing contractions, here's the lowdown: Once you've felt a couple of twinges and they start feeling more like clockwork, that's your cue to start timing.

Contractions can feel like the weight of the world pressing down or an epic battle with your digestive system so look out for those cues. Expect the sensation to start in your lower back and abdomen, though the playbook can vary from woman to woman.

Initially, contractions may hover around the one-minute mark, with intervals every fifteen minutes. But look, if your experience is marching to a different beat, that's okay! Timing is key here. Start from the first twinge to the start of the next because this gauges the gap between contractions.

Early contractions might feel like a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, lasting around 15 to 25 seconds. But when you're in the thick of it, they'll ramp up to a minute and come knocking every 3.5 minutes or so. Get ready for the ride because it could be a marathon!

Mastering Contraction Timings With a Tech-Savvy Approach

Embrace the digital age and let technology lend a hand (or a timer) while you focus on the important stuff like breathing through those contractions.

There are hundreds of free Apps out there to help through the active labour and transition phase of childbirth but in our opinion you simply can’t go wrong using the world's first hypnobirthing-friendly surge (contraction) timer and virtual birth partner, Freya.  Freya is a great contraction timer and virtual birth partner and it is available in 6 languages! When we last checked the App was around £4.99 but it is worth every penny (we are not on any paid commission with Freya to recommend their App!).

If you are using Apple you can download Freya here.

If you are using Android you can download Freya here.

Your DIY Timing Guide

Timing your contractions is simple once you have mastered it.

Start by grabbing a pen, paper, and a trusty timepiece with a second hand. When a contraction kicks in, jot down the start time.

As the contraction fades, note the end time. Repeat for the next contraction.

Keep this up for 30 to 60 minutes and voila! You've mastered the art of timing contractions, giving you a clear roadmap for your labour journey.

Knowing When to Head to the Hospital

A simple rule of thumb is the closer the contractions are together, the sooner your body is to giving birth. As soon as your contractions start to arrive every four or five minutes you need to prepare to head to the hospital.

If your contractions are mild and sit more than five minutes apart, it's very likely that you are in early labour.


These types of contraction can be irregular (or regular) and tend to last 25 to 40 seconds for each contraction. You will very likely be at home resting when the signs of early labour arrive. There is no need to contact the hospital just yet.

When your contractions start arriving much more frequently, are consistent and longer in duration, and more painful, contact your midwife or the hospital.

If you’re not sure if you’re in real labour, but think you might be, get on the phone to your midwife or hospital. It's also time to call your midwife if your water breaks, you notice any bleeding or bright red vaginal discharge, you experience blurred or double vision or a severe headache.

Remember, if in doubt, always call your hospital or midwife.

Wrapping Up

As we near the end of our contractions crash course, it's clear that timing these tummy twinges isn't just about watching the clock. From deciphering Braxton Hicks to decoding the real deal, we've learned that every contraction counts on the road to delivery.

So, what's the best way to navigate this contraction conundrum? Remember, when those belly rumbles start rolling in, it's time to put your timing skills to the test. Whether you're tapping away on a handy app or jotting down notes old-school style, the goal remains the same: to track those twinges with precision.

And when the contractions come knocking at your door like an overly enthusiastic neighbour, it's time to assess the situation. If they're sauntering in at a leisurely pace, you might still have some time to binge-watch your favourite show on Netflix. But if they're setting up camp every few minutes, it's time to grab your hospital bag and hit the road to the maternity ward.

Of course, no pregnancy journey through contractions would be complete without a sprinkle of humour and a dash of unpredictability. As you embark on this labour labyrinth, remember to keep your sense of humour intact and your midwife on speed dial. After all, a few laughs along the way can make even the toughest contractions feel like a walk in the park.

You’ve got this mum!