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Although they seem to go on for hours, contractions usually last about 30-90 seconds. They help dilate the cervix and move the baby into the birth canal for labor.
Contractions get closer and closer together as labor progresses -- from about once every 15 to 20 minutes, to once every 2 to 3 minutes. They also get more painful, which is when an epidural can come in handy.
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