How Long Do Contractions Last?

Woman having back pain during a contraction

How long do contractions last is an important question for any woman about to go into labor. Understanding the normal progression of labor and contractions will help you to know what to expect during this exciting time.

Length of Contractions and Labor

Labor is the process a woman's body goes through to deliver a baby. Everyone's labor is different--some experience a short labor and some women experience a long labor. Contractions are the involuntary rhythmical tightening of the uterine muscle that pushes the baby down and out of the birth canal during labor. The length of contractions is different for every pregnancy. However, there are a few norms that woman experience that might help you when you go through labor.

Timing Contractions

Knowing "how long do contractions last" is answered by timing your contractions to determine which stage of labor you are in. Time your contractions by counting at the beginning of one contraction when the pain begins, and continue counting even when the pain subsides until the start of a new contraction. The amount of time from the beginning of one contraction to the beginning of the next is how far apart the contractions are. When your contractions get closer together, you are farther along in the delivery phase of labor. At the beginning, the tightening or painful part of the contraction will last approximately 30 to 45 seconds, near the end the pain will be longer. A true contraction is usually at least 30 seconds long. Some women experience false labor or Braxton Hicks contractions, which is not true labor so you may be sent home from the hospital if this is the case until your labor truly starts.

Beginning of Labor

At the beginning of your labor you may see a small amount of bloody discharge. This can happen before you feel a contraction or afterwards. Some women do not even notice this bloody show and that is normal as well.

As the first stage progresses, your contractions may feel like a rubber band is tightening around your lower abdomen and lower back and being released every five minutes. During the tightening phase of the contraction, your abdomen will get hard to the touch.

Start Timing the Contractions

Begin timing your contractions as soon as you realize that you are having them to see how far apart they are. At the beginning, your contractions may be very irregular. One contraction may be 15 minutes apart from the next or as close as 5 minutes. The length of the contraction is probably 30 seconds to one minute in length. As the first stage of labor progresses, your contractions get closer and more regular. Most women are able to be at home during the first stage of labor.

How Long Do Contractions Last?

Your contractions will last from the beginning of labor until the baby is born. The average length of labor and contractions is approximately eight to 14 hours. How long do contractions last, is answered differently with each pregnancy. With your second and third pregnancies, labor and contractions may not last as long.

One Final Tip: Calling Your Doctor

Call your doctor when you first start recognizing you are having labor contractions. It is helpful to have the length of time of each contraction written down and how far apart they were- so keep a notepad handy so you can tell your doctor when you call. He will tell you how far apart your contractions should be before going to the hospital. How long do contractions last is answered differently for each woman, so relax and enjoy the birthing process.soon your baby will be in your arms.

How Long Do Contractions Last?