As a childbirth educator I’m often asked whether or not a family should use a contraction timer. We certainly talk about how to time contractions and what the different points in time mean as they pop this information. But actually having a physical timer in hand takes away the need for this information.
Some families love all things apps and it gives them things to do in early labor. Other families preferred just monitoring a few contractions and moving on without the aid of an app and simply using a Clock or Watch. There is not one right answer.
During childbirth education class I will sometimes have people pull out their phones and use the apps to help guide them through a mock labor. I have them do this while I use a program in the background that plays noises timed to be like contractions. This is all fun and games.
My personal history with timing contractions does not start with an app, but with an impatient husband who is anxious and did not know what to do. With my first pregnancy, I spent hours being chased around the house with the stopwatch, a pad of paper, and a pen. It was not a fun time. I can certainly laugh about it now, but in the moment it made me very anxious. And when the information on the pad of paper said that we should go to the hospital to have the baby, it made my husband anxious when I said that the data did not match what my body was saying.
If you choose to use a contraction timer, as many of my childbirth education students do, here are some pros and cons for their use:
(Most of my students is the Full Term app, so some of these features maybe specific to this app.)
Pros for using a contraction timer app:
- Quickly and easily mark the start and stop of a contraction
- Visual representation with different types of graphs of the length and frequency of contractions
- Reported reduction in the fear of “messing up” the timing of contractions
- Easy log of contractions, which is particularly helpful for preterm labor or prodromal labor
- Can easily share contraction data via email or screenshots
Cons for using a contraction timer app:
- Partner may be more tempted to stare at the app than the laboring person
- When in use, some apps may entice you to go to the hospital too early
To mitigate the cons of using the app in labor at term, I suggest that clients use it only occasionally to establish a pattern and then turn it off for awhile, until labor feels different. Then use it as a gauge for where you are at that moment in time. As a doula, I rarely see anyone with a contraction timer once I’m with them.
The bottom line is, assuming you can prevent the contraction timer from being a crutch or distraction, it can be a handy tool in labor.