This is it—the moment you’ve been waiting for. Once you’ve felt a few contractions in a row, it’s time to grab your stopwatch and get ready to do some math.
Know when they’re real
Braxton Hicks contractions help prepare your body for labor, but they can make it hard to discern when it’s really go time. True contractions will come in regular intervals, increase in intensity and won’t fade away with movement or changes in position.
Determine the duration
When you feel your abdomen tighten, note the exact time—the more accurate you can be, the better. When the pain subsides, note the time again. By subtracting the start time from the end time, you’ll find the duration of your contraction. Easy enough!
Figure out the frequency
When your next contraction begins, mark the time once more. Subtract the start time of the previous contraction from the start time of the current contraction to determine how far apart your contractions are. You’re calculating the time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next—not the time between the end of one and the start of the next. Got it?
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Recognize when to go
You don’t need to time every contraction (thank goodness), but keep track of them often enough to notice when the intervals change. Most doctors suggest following the 5-1-1 rule: Head to the hospital when contractions are around five minutes apart and one minute long and have been that way for about one hour.