Judith Bishop: So the classic way to time contractions is from the start of one contraction to the start of the next, so you’re not paying attention to how long they last or when they end but just literally writing down when it starts and then when the next one starts. Although I really would say that you don’t want to go looking for labor, you want to let it find you, don’t come in with 5 pages of timed contractions. Wait until they’re really—you can’t sleep through them, you can’t talk through them, you can’t eat through them, you can’t work through them, and then once you’re there, then start to time them.
Then, when to call your provider, there’s a little rule of thumb called 5-1-1, and that’s when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, they last about a minute, and they’ve hung in there at that rate for about an hour, maybe 2. So with a first baby, you’ve got really more time than you want, usually. You’ve got plenty of time, and you can be quite relaxed about this, and you can really stay at home and work with your contractions until they’re at least at that 5-1-1 stage.
There are other things that might dictate calling your provider sooner, which might be it’s your second baby, in which case more of a don’t dawdle approach might be applied because they can come so much more quickly. Another issue that might be relevant is whether your bag of water has broken. Usually labor starts first, but occasionally the bag of water will break first and you want to make a call to your provider at that point whether or not you’re having any contractions.