The answer to all these questions lies in your contraction time.
The timing and frequency of your contractions is an essential indicator of what phase of labor you are in, and when you need to go to the hospital. You can either do it on a paper by writing down the start time and duration (in seconds) of your contractions and do the calculations yourself, or you can use your smartphone to download an app that will do these calculations for you.
The main thing separating “real” labor from “false” labor is that in true labor, your contractions will get progressively longer, stronger, and closer together.
Here are some of the terms that you may come across when you see a contraction timer app:
- Start Time: You would enter the time at which you first feel the contraction. Initially, the contractions may be of only a few seconds of duration, so if you are writing this down, it is essential to note the seconds along with the hour and minute. For example, at 10:02:15 am.
- End Time: You would enter the time (or depending on the app, press STOP) at the precise time that you feel like the contraction has stopped. For example, contraction ended at 10:02:47 seconds.
- Duration: The amount of time that the contraction was present. In the above example, that would be 10:02:47 minus 10:02:15, thereby giving you 32 seconds. This is the duration of contraction.
- Contractions Time or Interval or Frequency: This is the time between contractions. When timing contractions, frequency is the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next. For example, if your second contraction occurs at 10:50:30 am, then the interval between the first contraction (at 10:02:15 am) and the second contraction (at 10:50:30 am) is 48 minutes and 30 seconds.
Once you have this data, you can DOWNLOAD THE HANDY ONE PAGE CHEAT SHEET and refer to it to see what stage of labor you are in. This will help you decide when it is time to go to the hospital.
I have used a few smartphone apps for timing my contractions and these are some of the best ones in the market now:
- Contraction Master: This app works with iOS or Android as well as web based. If you are using the computer version, you do not need to be hooked up to the internet once the program has loaded (works offline). It is also able to print your contractions. This site has been live for a long time and has a long history.
- Contraction Timer App: This Android app is free and works easily. You simply hit start and stop when a contraction begins and ends. This app will calculate how far apart the contractions are for you and how long they last. I like the fact that you can edit the contraction time after the fact.
- Full Term: This iOS app is very basic, but also provides you with an easy to use interface. The app has a bright light which can either be helpful or a hinderance, which really just depends on what you’re looking for in an app. When used at night, it’s bright enough to see the buttons and listings of previous contractions, without waking someone else up.
- iBirth: This app is for iOS or Android. It’s so much more than a contraction timer. It has video clips to help you find good positions for labor. It offers comfort measures. It even has information on nutrition. This was developed by childbirth educators and doulas. It is a great tool for all moms. The timer is a mere basic function along with the other goodies provided by this app.
- Contraction Timer Deluxe: This app is great because, not only does it time your contractions, but this iOS app also plots your contractions on a graph for a visual representation. It calculates how far apart, how long, etc. This can help you see if your contractions are meeting the stronger, longer, and closer together requirements that signal labor. There is also a free version available.
- Labor Mate: An iOS app, this app times contractions with the click of a button. They promise that you’ll be able to use other functions, including your phone, without disturbing the app’s counting mechanism, even if you go to another app. You can also delete contractions that you don’t want to record with a quick click, without starting over. (This is great if you think you’re starting a contraction, but it fizzles before it starts.)
- If you want to check out other Free Contraction Timer Apps on Android, you can click here.
Overall contraction timers offer very similar features. You need to decide which features are most important to you and why. A mother who is experiencing preterm labor or who has a history of preterm labor, may have a need for different functions than a mother who is just trying to figure out when to go to the hospital to have her baby. Another consideration is that you will want to consider if you load this on your phone or the phone of your partner. Sometimes this will matter in labor. These are fun apps to play with for most people.