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When they say contractions "5 minutes apart" what do they actually mean?

(19 Posts)
Bartimaeus Mon 12-Sep-11 08:24:31

I've been told to come into the hospital when I'm having contractions 5 minutes apart for 1.5 hours (first baby, I'm in France).

What does that actually mean though? 5 minutes from start to start? From the end of one to the beginning of another? confused

I want to try and stay at home as long as possible (the midwives telling us to make the labour room into a cocoon as we'll be there for 8-10 hours freaked me out somewhat! grin ) but obviously don't want to give birth at home (or worse, in a taxi...)

Flisspaps Mon 12-Sep-11 08:27:53

I would take it to mean from the start of one contraction to the start of the next. 8-10 hours is probably normal though, it generally takes 8 hours to get from 4cm (the start of 'active' labour) to the finish line.

Bartimaeus Mon 12-Sep-11 08:34:17

Argh 8 hours!
I've been brainwashed by my mum who didn't realise she was in labour (no one told her what it would feel like) so gave birth less than 2 hours after arriving at the hospital....That sounds nice! smile

The start of one to the start of the other. So you contract at 9am and then at 9.07 your contractions are 7 minutes apart.

It's not an exact science though - if you are feeling like your bottom is going to explode (don't worry it won't) then you need to be in a hospital and never mind what the contractions are doing. I had 2 minute long contractions with dd2 and they never got above 1 minute at most with dd3. Did the same thing though grin

RitaMorgan Mon 12-Sep-11 08:45:39

My contractions were all over the place and never got regular, I just called the midwife (homebirth) when I couldn't stand the pain anymore and needed them to bring me gas and air grin Turned out that was about 5cms.

Took me about 16 hours to get from 5cms to giving birth though...

GingerbreadGiraffe Mon 12-Sep-11 08:54:35

I'd recommend the use of contraction master website, its great as it keeps a log for you in early labour.

Bartimaeus Mon 12-Sep-11 08:58:25

Thanks gingerbread will look at that

LoveBeingAMummyAgain Mon 12-Sep-11 09:01:29

Or if you have an iPhone, I used a contractions app this week with ds and it measures how long the contraction is and how far apart. You just press a button when it starts and press again when it ends.

Flisspaps Mon 12-Sep-11 12:26:43

Have a read of this article (by the Hackey Doula) which is just something to think about re the Contraction Master app and website (I agree with her, although obviously it's entirely up to anyone as to whether they find it useful or not) smile

BikeRunSki Mon 12-Sep-11 12:33:09

Several contractions apps also on Android - and downloaded and waiting for me on my phone!

Anyway, time from start to start.

I four labours i have never had regular contractions smile !
I would go more on level on pain if you feel the pain is making you stop what you are doing while its at its peak then its time to head in, if this is 10 minutes apart then so be it !
With my last dc my contratiosn went from 15 mins apart to 2 mins in a matter of minutes it was then less than half an hour to go from 2cms to birth smile

fraktious Mon 12-Sep-11 12:58:36

At that rate I'd gave been there all night wink as it was I managed to stay in the hospital but out of the labour room for a fair amount of time (best compromise they were offering).

My lovely MW said to go in when we felt we needed to. They can examine and send you away if necessary. She also said if we wanted an epidural to get in there earlier...

bozemum Mon 12-Sep-11 16:12:36

I think the 5 min means from start of one contraction to the start of the next. But its such a general figure I'm not sure it means much. Mine were about every 5 mins for about 18 hours or so. They just got stronger in intensity. I kept phoning the hospital asking if I should come in. And cos I was trying to be brave and not screaming down the phone at them they kept telling me it would be a while to go and to stay at home. I eventually went in when I was almost wet myself I was in so much pain. And was already 8cm. baby arrived 40 min later. Which I think is perfect as I didn't want to hang around in hospital. But If I had gone with the 5 min rule, I'd have been there for about 18 hours. I think you just know when you're getting close. The contractions get really hard to withstand without any pain relief. I you are getting taxi then I would go in beofre you get to the point when you'll be double over in pain on the floor of the taxi. Cos I think I'd find that embarrassing with taxi driver there!

pinkytheshrinky Mon 12-Sep-11 16:19:26

FFS a contraction app??? How did I manage to have so many babies? Ridiculous and just another thing to sell to people (talk about one trick pony too).

saoirse86 Mon 12-Sep-11 18:03:18

I was told in my antenatal class at the hospital I gave birth in to go in when the contractions were 4 minutes apart lasting a minute. So 3 minutes between them. That's what I did but, like bozemum, I wasn't screaming in agony so was sent home. That was when I was 5cm. When I went back and was "allowed" to stay I was 7cm.

I agree that you should go in a bit earlier than you think if you're in a taxi. Those 3 car journeys I did were absolute agony but at least it was my mum driving and she'd put a maternity mat down for the bleeding!

And when you feel like you want pain relief make a song and dance about it so they don't think you're coping too well!

You can't talk through a proper contraction. A friend of minw recently rang her delivery ward because she had been having contraction like things for some time - long latent labour. When she couldn't talk through them (and was 7 days overdue btw) she rang the ward who said because the contractions were iregular she wasn't in labour and shouldn't come in. 40 minutes later she nearly gave birth on the bathroom floor.......

squiggleywiggler Mon 12-Sep-11 19:44:54

Ah, Flisspaps you beat me to it!

Trouble with all this 'come in when your contractions are X mins apart' is that a) you get obsessed with timing them which can throw things off anyway (as per my article which Fliss kindly linked to above)

b)5 mins apart can mean you are 20 mins or 20 hours from giving birth - it's a guideline but not a massively helpful one (you can read what a MW says about it here: www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/30/should-trust-instinct-over-technology

I suggest to my clients that they think about going in when it feels right to them, when they feel like they might not want to make the journey if they waited longer, when it would feel nicer to be there, when they have started to disappear off in to their own world a bit, when they need to concentrate 100% on the contractions.

And if you do HAVE to time them then it's easier to work out how many you are having in a 10 min period rather than x mins apart. It's the timing MWs use themselves ("she's having contractions 3 in 10")

Flisspaps Mon 12-Sep-11 21:33:28

I wasn't sure if you'd see the thread squiggleywiggler and I thought it was a very sensible article, but didn't want to put your MN name up (was wary of outing you with your real name being on there, even though I was certain you'd linked to your doula page before!)

squiggleywiggler Mon 12-Sep-11 22:36:15

Thank you! I'm 'out' on MN! I'll secretly name-change to reveal my innermost secrets of course...

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