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What is a Contraction Timer and Why Do I Need it During Pregnancy?

A contraction timer is the key to understanding what your contractions mean and could help you answer the biggest question of your pregnancy: “Am I in labor?”

Think of a contraction timer as the translator for your body. With this translator, you can ask your contractions some questions: Are you regular or irregular? How long do you last? Will you go away when I rest? Will you go away when I drink water? Are you even more annoying today than you were yesterday?

A contraction timer allows you to see the contraction pattern.

Labor contractions, by definition, are contractions that cause cervical change. Since you cannot (and should not) check your own cervix, you may hear advice to use contractions – the pattern and behavior – as a proxy for potential cervical change.

Early labor contractions tend* to take on a different pattern than your good ‘ol Braxton Hicks contractions. In early labor, contraction patterns are usually more regular – meaning the the time between them, the interval, is the same from contraction to contraction. Labor contractions also progress – they start to get closer together in time. Finally, labor contractions won’t stop or slow when you try all the tricks to make them go away (e.g. drinking water and resting).

How does a contraction timer work?

Well, that depends what you mean by a “contraction timer”.

In my two pregnancies, I relied on two very different versions of contraction timers. In my first pregnancy, my husband and I opted for the stopwatch feature on my smartphone. There are 50+ apps in the app store that function as a contraction timer and simple contraction timer apps work similar to the stopwatch function.  The stopwatch or stopwatch app requires you or your partner to hit a button each time a contraction starts and stops. Fancy apps track and display the contraction pattern and timing and don’t require you to do the math.


Manually Tracking

Contractions are often (and aptly!) described as waves of pressure. Personally, I found the beginning of a contraction very subtle. I would squeeze my husband’s hand when I felt it come on, would wait for the contraction crest and the pressure decrease and only when I felt relief, or the end of the contraction, did I tell him “stop!” to hit the button to stop the timer. Even though the interval between contractions is a smart start, the duration (start to end of one contraction) is valuable information. To get an accurate pattern and stats, it is important to accurately time each contraction however you choose to time them.’


Contraction Timer

But there is a better, and more accurate way. For my second pregnancy, we had Bloomlife. Bloomlife does not require any manual input from you or your partner – instead, it automatically tracks, times and counts contractions by monitoring your uterine muscle activity. It starts and stops its built-in timer when your muscle contracts and then relaxes. As you may guess, it is far more accurate than your best guess. Not that I am questioning your guessing skills, but, let’s be honest, trying to pay attention the moment a contraction starts and ends should not be your priority, or your partners during this moment! The design of the app is also super simple. The basic information you need – duration, interval, contraction pattern, contraction stats – are glance-able. Everything you need to know at your fingertips.

Learn more about Bloomlife here.

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Molly Dickens, PhD

About Molly

Molly has her PhD in Physiology and spent over a decade as an academic research scientist slightly obsessed with the colliding worlds of brain science, hormones, stress and the reproductive system. Nowadays she heads up Content and Community at Bloomlife and edits Preg U. Science is still her jam and she can't help but continue to dive into the research world to find interesting bits about pregnancy and parenting.


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