Prodromal labor stinks.
It’s a labor pattern I’ve experienced with the last six of my pregnancies (including this one). I’m currently dealing with prodromal labor, while waiting on this little babe to decide to make an appearance.
I know this isn’t the type of post I typically share, but it’s on my mind and in my heart right now.
What Is Prodromal Labor?
By baby number four, I really thought I’d know what labor starting would feel like. I remember being so excited when the Braxton Hicks contractions started intensifying and growing closer together one evening.
I just knew that night was the night I’d finally meet my baby. I sounded the alarm and let everyone know.
The labor pains continued for several hours, continuing to increase in both strength and intensity.
And then all of a sudden, they fizzled out.
That continued every evening for over two weeks. I questioned my sanity.
I wondered how in the world a woman who had already delivered three kids could not KNOW the difference between real labor and these things I was dealing with.
I felt a bit like the boy who cried wolf, and became discouraged.
Eventually the baby came out, with “real” labor kicking into gear the evening before I was scheduled for a 42-week induction. She was sunny side up.
Baby number five was more of the same. I had no idea what was going on with my body.
It wasn’t until I switched to the local birth center when pregnant with baby 6 that I heard about prodromal labor.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, prodromal labor is:
Often called “false labor,” and is somewhere in between Braxton Hicks contractions and active labor contractions. Prodromal labor is a part of labor, occurring before active labor but it does not progress toward delivery.
“Prodromal” comes from a Greek word meaning “precursor.” This is a great explanation for this type of labor since it typically comes hours, days, or weeks before active labor begins.
So prodromal labor isn’t truly false labor. Those contractions are doing something – even if the results of them don’t end with a baby as quickly as we’d like.
What Causes Prodromal Labor?
After talking to my midwives and doing some research, it sounds like there is no “official” cause of prodromal labor. However, there are some theories.
Some people think it has to do with baby’s positioning in the womb. The baby’s head isn’t positioned correctly on the cervix, and the uterus uses these early contractions to try and get baby moved.
Other people think having more than three babies, the shape of the uterus, or anxiety can also lead to prodromal labor.
No matter what “causes” prodromal labor, it’s no fun to deal with. I tend to agree with the baby’s positioning cause, because most of my later babies have been born sunny-side up. They just aren’t in an ideal position for birth.
So my body starts working on getting them there. And my kids tend to be a bit stubborn, so apparently it takes them longer. (:D)
How to Deal with Prodromal Labor
I’ve learned some important things about prodromal labor with each pregnancy where I experience it.
If you’re also dealing with prodromal labor, here are some of my best tips to help you get through it. (And I’m writing this now as a reminder to myself…)
Don’t Feel Bad About False Alarms
This is perhaps the hardest one for me to deal with emotionally, so I’m putting it first to help me remember.
When the contractions start to intensify I notify my husband, and some other family members. Everyone is then on edge, waiting for me to sound the alarm that it’s time.
And then I don’t call.
So they do. And I have to explain that the contractions fizzled out. Again.
I’ve even shown up at the hospital (with an earlier baby) or called the birth center.
Then my contractions stop and I start feeling like a failure. I begin to question whether or not my body can do this. Or decide there must be something wrong with me because I can’t tell the difference between “real” labor and the contractions I’m having.
Then I start feeling almost a pressure to perform. A “you said you were in labor, so where’s the kid?” type of pressure.
And I know this is totally in my head, because I am surrounded by very supportive people who don’t actually say anything like this.
So, recognize that false alarms happen. Talk to people about your unusual labor patterns.
And don’t let yourself fall into the mind trap of self-doubt, embarrassment, or anxiety.
Because remember one of the potential causes of prodromal labor? Yup, it’s anxiety. So take a deep breath, and take your concerns to the Lord in prayer. He will help!
When contractions start, my natural instinct is to start walking so they intensify and I can just get labor over with.
Except, when you’re dealing with labor pains during the night for several weeks in a row, you can’t do that.
You’ll wear yourself out. So, make rest a priority. Take a nap during the day, put your feet up when you can, and slow down.
I’ve found my body knows pretty well when it’s time to start walking through contractions. It becomes something I can’t stop – not something I can force. So, until I reach that point, I prioritize rest.
Your body definitely needs rest before labor. So move from couch to couch, alternate reclined and flat positions, and get as much sleep as you can.
Think About Something Else
Some of my best writing has been done while bouncing through contractions. Pick something else to focus on, so you don’t stew about the prodromal labor.
If you need something to do, I highly recommend starting a freelance writing business! It’s been life-changing for me. Here’s the course I recommend to get you started – and yes, this is my affiliate link!
Worried about starting a new business with a baby coming soon? Take it slow. Use this time to write samples, or design your website. Then you can start pitching for clients after you’ve recovered and gotten into the new normal routine.
Writing not your thing? No worries! There’s plenty of other things you can do to engage your mind right now.
Do a crossword puzzle. Finally get those pictures into a scrapbook. Tackle a project you’ve been meaning to do.
Just pick something that you can do and do it. The distraction is nice.
Talk to You Provider About Baby’s Position
Find out all you can about how your baby is positioned in your womb. Then see if there’s anything you can do to help move baby.
My midwives have encouraged me to go through contractions with one foot elevated, to spend time on my hands and knees, and to try a variety of positions when my prodromal labor starts.
There’s a ton of information available on the Spinning Babies website too, so check it out.
Don’t Lose Heart
Your prodromal labor is accomplishing something within your body. You will eventually meet this little one.
So don’t lose heart and fall into discouragement.
As a bonus, most women who experience prodromal labor have a much shorter active labor period. There body has already done all of the “prep” work necessary, and can focus on just getting the job done.
Talk to someone you trust about the emotions you’re experiencing, have supportive people check on you in a non “Why isn’t baby here yet?” way.
Practice Managing Pain
Since you”re having contractions, you might as well breathe through them and practice coping with pain. Prodromal labor is like a labor dress rehearsal (or twenty) that not everyone gets.
You can see what positions help you feel better, if you like some counter-pressure during them, or if you just want left alone.
These all might change when you hit active labor, but it’s a good way to get a baseline at least.
So breathe mama, breathe. You will survive this!
Prodromal labor pains intensify when you’re dehydrated. So drink plenty of water.
It really does help!
And it’s good for the rest of you too, not just to minimize prodromal labor pains.
Find a water bottle you love, and keep it nearby. You don’t want to have to walk to the sink each time you want a drink, so make it as easy as you can.
I love my Contigo water bottle!
Remember Baby Will Come Out
So far each of my prodromal labor stories has a happy ending. I do eventually get a sweet baby in my arms. And that makes it all worthwhile.
I never quite know how each labor story will get written before it happens. But, looking back, there was a definite turning point in my contractions in all of them, except the one where I was induced for low-fluid. I can’t explain the switch, because if I could, I’d just wait for things to reach that point before telling anyone.
But, it’s there. A subtle shift, a deeper pain, a moment when I “knew” it was time, for reals.
I’ve seen 42 weeks more than once. And lived to tell about it. 😀 But each of my babies does eventually make it out of the womb.
So mama, you’ve got this. The pain, the discouragement, the wonder, it’s all worth it.