how long is 90 seconds? Mind The Baby blog

How long is 90 seconds?

I’m feeling all inspired and fired up by the Olympics today! It’s been a great two weeks. I have such admiration for all of the athletes whose hard work, dedication and natural talent is literally written all over their bodies.  All the television rules in our house were suspended.  There’s nothing but goodness to be gained from watching the physically and mentally elite of the world!

Usually a detractor of boxing, I’ve become a fairweather fan during the last fortnight like most of the country although in fairness I’ve had my husband whispering in my ear for years about the skill and discipline of the sport.  I have suited myself that in the safe confines of the spirit of the Olympics that it’s about the expertise, experience and talent but not about being punched violently about the face and head.

how long is 90 seconds? Mind The Baby blog
Kate Taylor
Photo courtesy of

Watching Ireland’s new darling Katie Taylor box her way to gold was more like watching a dance than a fight which is a tribute to her obvious skill and talent. I am in absolute awe of Katie.  She really is such a trailblazer and a wonderful example to men and women alike of what can be achieved when you put your mind to something even when the world is against you. And such quiet confidence, what a superstar.

Another thing that struck me about the boxing was how short the rounds were – 3 rounds of 3 minutes for the men; 4 rounds of 2 minutes for the women – but then 2 minutes is likely to be an eternity when you’re repeatedly being punched in the nose. Just like 90 seconds can feel like an eternity when you’re in the throes of active labour. (How’s that for a segue? :))

You find it written everywhere in all the pregnancy literature about labour: contractions will last 90 seconds at the height of labour; stage 1, stage 2; early labour, active labour; increasing in duration from 30 to 60 to 90 seconds yadda yadda, yeah yeah, I get it…

I didn’t really get it until I went to my first prenatal aqua-aerobics class. I loved it! A bit of cardio, some good proper pregnancy proportioned exercise, a bit of wading around chatting with the other pregnant ladies and then at the end: the kicking.

What’s the kicking you say? So she lines us all up at the bar at the side of the pool:

At the height of your labour, 90 seconds will be the length of your longest contraction, she says.

Yeah, yeah, 90 seconds, I know that, I’m thinking.

So on my mark, she says, hold onto the bar and kick your mightiest until 90 seconds has passed and I shout stop.

Oh okay, I think, 90 seconds – piece of piss.

A random number of seconds in – because, get this, time is relative – I’m red in the face, gasping for air with absolutely no control of my breathing.

Oh shit.

She gives us 60 seconds to catch our breathe and then off we go again for another 90 seconds because THAT’S HOW LABOURS WORKS.

Double shit.

Although this time, I knew what was coming and managed to grab a hold of my breathing a little bit. My lungs were still on fire though.

We only did it those two times and suddenly the realisation of the actual possible length of 90 seconds in labour dawned on me…

I came back the next week and the next and the next, and each time my 90 seconds got shorter and I learned to know exactly how many deep breathes it takes for the 90 seconds to pass. It was eight incidentally, which meant once I got to four I knew I was over the hump.  Interestingly, when I was in actual labour my breathes really extended, particularly the exhale, and it ended up that it was four breathes per contraction but again at least I knew when I was on the way back down.

That preparation really stood to me in the end. Although I got a terrible fright the first time, it was a fright I needed to put things in perspective for me and the kick I needed to prepare myself.  Labouring women do far more rounds than Olympic boxers you know! But same as Olympic boxers, we take it one round at a time 🙂

If you haven’t tried it, give it a lash. Kicking, not boxing that is.

7 thoughts on “How long is 90 seconds?”

  1. I went swimming every week while I was pregnant. I used to swim lengths of the pool and each length would take me about a minute. When I’d get really tired, I would swim slower and breathe deeper as I swam and repeat to myself “you can rest when you get to the edge” – or something to that effect. (it was a few years ago now!) I always remembered from my Gentlebirth classes being told “contractions only last a minute and then you get a rest and you can do anything for a minute”. So I used swimming those lengths to drill that into my mind! I remember drawing on that image of the swimming pool through a few tough contractions. It definitely helped!

    1. Ah great minds Lisa! I’m planning a follow up post on Gentlebirth too. I was the same, throwing my memory back to the familiarity of the pool and knowing I could get through it because I’d done it so many times before. It’s almost as if your labouring brain is reaching out to grab on to something familiar to anchor it.
      You did the workshop Lisa – how did you find it? I had the home study programme.

  2. What a blooming brilliant post! Just before T was born, time escaped me and I could have sworn I was having 5 minute rests in between contractions, I really wasn’t. Amazing what the body can do! 🙂

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