As a doula and childbirth educator, I have heard from many people that the process of timing contractions is confusing. However, it’s a skill that is quite useful in labor. Many OB/GYNs and midwives recommend timing contractions and leaving for the hospital or birth center when contractions fit a certain pattern.

There are two important factors that define a contraction pattern. These are duration of contractions and frequency of contractions.

Contraction Duration

The duration of the contraction is how long the actual contraction lasts. The person in labor can tell you when they begin to feel the contraction and when they can no longer feel the contraction. The time for the entire process from start to finish is considered the contraction duration. During active labor, a contraction might be 1 minute long while a contraction in the earlier stage of labor could be 30 seconds long.

Contraction Frequency

While duration is straightforward, the frequency of contractions can be a little tricky. The contraction frequency is measured from the START of one contraction to the START of the next contraction. If there are 5 minutes that pass between the start of a contraction and the start of another contraction then you would say that contractions are 5 minutes apart. Do not be confused by timing the end of one contraction to the beginning of the next. Remember START to START.

Contraction Patterns

Care providers (OB/GYNs or midwives) will sometimes recommend that you head to your birthing location when contractions are 5 minutes apart (that’s frequency) and 1 minute long (that’s duration). They might also ask about the overall timing of the contraction pattern and for how long it has lasted. For example, you might say that your contractions have been 5 minutes apart, each lasting 1 minute long and this pattern has been going on for one full hour. (This can also be described as a 5-1-1 pattern.)

Contraction Timer Apps

If tracking the duration and frequency of contractions while you or your loved one is in labor sounds daunting, then go ahead and download a contraction timer app. A good contraction timer app will make timing and documenting the contractions super easy.

If you do a quick search in the App Store for “Contraction Timer” you will find over 50 apps fitting this description. Between this search alone and the dozens of other pregnancy related apps that include a contraction timer as a feature, you are sure to be overwhelmed by the options.

To help narrow down the choices and make your decision easier,we have tested 6 popular apps and evaluated the contraction timer functionality in each. When testing, we were analyzing the ease of use, the reporting features included, the cost and whether or not they had ads.

Results: We found that the apps featuring colorful, large buttons make using the apps super easy. Apps with simple and clear reporting (like quickly finding the frequency and duration you logged) scored higher in our results than those that were more complicated. Finally, we give our opinion about whether or not we would recommend the use of each app we tried out.

Popular Apps with Contraction Timers Built In

If you are using an app to track your pregnancy, you might already have a contraction timer on your phone. Below you will find four popular pregnancy apps (one specifically made for expecting partners) that have a contraction timer within. Depending on what other features you may be looking for, there may be other pros and cons we don’t mention below for each app, but we have written some quick notes about the timer function to guide you in the right direction.

We started our list with the app that we like the least and ended with the app that we like the best.

Ovia

  • Cost: Free
  • Ads: Has ads sprinkled throughout content
  • Ease of use: Start and done buttons are small and don’t look like buttons
  • Reporting: No graphs
  • Not Recommended

Preglife

  • Cost: Free
  • Ads: No ads
  • Ease of use: Very easy to use start and stop buttons
  • Reporting: Contains a graph that we find quite confusing
  • Not Recommended

The Bump

  • Cost: Free, but must create a free account with The Bump
  • Ads: No ads
  • Ease of use: Easy to use start and stop buttons
  • Reporting: Frequency and Duration reporting not clear, no summary information
  • Not Recommended

DaddyUp

  • Cost: Free
  • Ads: 1 small ad
  • Ease of Use: Easy to use start and stop buttons
  • Reporting: No graphs, but a nice summary of the last hour. Frequency and duration reporting is very clear
  • Recommended 

    Stand Alone Contraction Timer Apps

    If you are looking for a simple contraction timer app without all of the other bells and whistles in the pregnancy apps listed above, here are two we reviewed and some of our takeaway notes for each.

    Contraction Timer – Time Labor

    • Cost: Free
    • Ads: Has ads
    • Ease of Use: Easy to use, big red and green buttons
    • Reporting: Frequency and duration reporting not very clear
    • Not Recommended

    Full Term – Free

    • Cost: Free
    • Ads: Has ads, but you can pay $0.99 to remove them
    • Ease of use: Easy to use, big red and green buttons
    • Reporting: Frequency and duration reporting is clear
    • Recommended