Face palms, all around.

If you’ve never experienced labor or childbirth firsthand, you’ve probably seen enough movies or heard stories from friends to get a general idea of what contractions are. Some men, however, are just totally clueless. The Sex-Ed Guys are here to try to tackle contractions, and we are doing our best to keep it together.

One of our guys defined contractions as the process that allows a woman’s vaginal opening to go from almond size to melon-size (and he used his hands as visuals to illustrate the upsizing). True there’s a lot happening during labor. But he’s mistaking the dilation of the cervix for contractions, which are two related yet completely different things. Another dude was under the impression that women had a specific number of contractions during labor. Apparently it’s nine. Or six. He’s still working out the numbers.

At least our guys did nail one thing about contractions: they hurt like hell. “They’re awful from what I’ve seen in videos,” said one. We’re sure most mothers would agree.

“A contraction is when the muscles of the uterus tighten and contract, so they actually come together causing what we feel as a large cramp, or the pain that you have when you have a contraction,” explains Navya Mysore, MD, medical director at One Medical Group.

Mothers can experience contractions before, during, and after labor. According to the American Pregnancy Association, early labor contractions are usually mild (think: lower back pains and those similar to menstrual cramps) and can last 30-45 seconds with 5-30 minutes of rest between them. Once labor really kicks in, contractions can be as frequent as every 60-90 seconds with a 30-120 second rest between.

Guys, take note. Because contractions are known to be a painful and uncomfortable element of labor for moms-to-be, you have an important job to do as the partner or support person: help her keep track of her timing and calm her with breathing exercises.

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