Labor Contractions

Labor Contractions

Information about labor contractions and how they are timed, stages of labor, what they feel like and when to go to the hospital.


Stages of Labor

There are three stages of labor, the first stage is when the cervix begins to dilate until you are completely dilated and effaced (cervix is opened and thinned). Second stage of labor is the delivery of your babies and third stage is the birth of the placenta(s).


Read on here: Stages of Labor


How to Time Labor Contractions:

So how exactly do you time labor contractions, firstly you will need a watch with a second hand, a pen and paper.


How to count how far apart they are: You start counting from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next.


Duration: The duration of a contraction is from the very beginning to the very end of one.


The easiest way to record this information, which is very helpful for the doctor, midwife or obstetrician, is to write down the time each contraction starts and how long they last for. See the example below:


Time Contraction Started

Duration of Contraction


1 minute


1 minute


1 minute

So you can now see how far apart each labor contraction is, the first started at 12:10 and the beginning of the second started at 12:15 that makes it 5 minutes apart, with each lasting 1 minute.


Many people record contractions in small groups, five contractions in a row for instance.

This way you are not timing every single one and you can still see how you are progressing. If you have any questions check in with your physician or midwife.

Even Better you can use a Contraction Timer

Here you can even download it on to an iPhone. This makes it so much easier without having to think too much about recording everything, you just click or hit the button. The bonus is your labor partner will be able to comfort you without the fuss of pen, paper and watch and you can print off your records.


You can also get an App similar to this on for an android phone just search contractor timer and choose one.

What do Labor Contractions Feel Like?

In early labor many mothers describe them as menstrual cramps. Everyone is different while some feel the worst pain in their lower stomach and others across their back, sometimes both. Each pregnancy could be quite different as well. With my first pregnancy I had extreme pains in my back and in my second pregnancy, which were twins, the pain was across my stomach and down my thighs.


The best way to describe how they come and go is to imagine you are on a push bike going uphill, going from mild to intense as you climb the hill, then easing off as the bike goes downhill. They will gradually become more intense with the peak of your contraction lasting much longer.


How to Cope During Labor:
Think of the bike analogy to yourself like, ok I’m pedaling uphill, nearly at the top and now I’m peaking, but the bike has to come down sooner or later and slowly it will begin to ease off. This really helped me to be focused and be in some sort of control. If the bike doesn’t work for you try something else, like a wave getting bigger and then slowly crashing down.


On average a first time mom will be in active labor for about 12 hours, keep in mind that it’s the last 3cm of dilation or so that’s the hardest and more intense, but it doesn’t last as long as the first 7cm.


Importantly every mother is different and all have a different perception of being in labor. Some will think of it as a natural spiritual life experience while others see it as I can’t avoid it lets get it over with or the worst possible thing I just have to do.


However you look at it one thing that can help ease your pain is to remember your body is working hard to deliver your babies and accepting this can really be of some help. Try to stay focused and let it happen, though it can be hard, trying to fight the pain of labor can make it feel much worse.


Read more on Medicated Pain Relief During Labor


When to go to the hospital


You should ask your health care professional when they would like you to go to the hospital, having twins may require you to be there earlier. If it is your second pregnancy (or more) then everything can progress much faster than you expect.


If you have not been told a specific time to head down to the hospital then generally it’s when contractions are 4 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each for an hour. Of course this will depend on how far away you live from medical care.


Most expectant mothers whether having twins or a single baby, first, second or fourth pregnancy can be anxious when imminent labor is approaching. The good news is it’s a natural part of giving birth and its nature’s way in preparing your body to deliver your baby. I found having this thought in my mind also helped me to deal with the pain of labor and delivery.

Have you got any further questions, then check out our FAQs for a Twin Pregnancy

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