Prodromal labor is an experience of contractions that seem to be the start of labor. These contractions start, go on for a while, then suddenly stop completely. The “labor” stops progressing at this point. This phenomenon is also (inaccurately) known as “false labor.”
Prodromal labor is part of your body preparing to give birth, but can occur when it’s not quite time yet to go into full-blown labor.
Often times you may hear women saying that they have been experiencing “false labor.”
Likely what they are experiencing is prodromal labor.
Women may experience Braxton Hicks contractions through pregnancy. A Braxton Hicks contraction is where the uterine muscle tightens up and doesn’t really cause any pain, just pressure.
Prodromal labor is sort of in the middle of a Braxton Hicks contraction and full blown labor; the uterus contracts however, nothing really progresses or gets stronger.
What throws women off with prodromal labor is that it can actually be consistent and pretty strong, making women think that they are in labor. This is your body preparing to give birth but not quite being ready.
Signs of Prodromal Labor vs. Full-blown Labor:
- Prodromal Labor: Consistent contractions that may be strong but don’t really progress in intensity or continue to get closer together. Contractions that continue; however, do not cause progress in the cervix.
- Full-blown Labor: Consistent contractions that progress with intensity and get closer and longer. Contractions that continue to pick up and cause change in the cervix.
What Can I Do if I’m Having Prodromal Labor?
Prodromal labor can often start in the wee hours when the mother is sleeping.
This can get very frustrating, because often times, the mom will be up all night having contractions and then, come morning, it stops and doesn’t come back.
If this happens to you, the best thing you can do is try the hardest to rest, but there are also some other things you can do to try and help.
- Take a bath (add some Epsom salt, 1-2 cups per bath).
- Change positions.
- See a chiropractor.
- Drink plenty of water and eat nutritious food.
- Some midwives and providers may suggest getting cramp bark. Cramp bark is often taken when women are experiencing period cramps to relieve pain and can work wonders to ease prodromal labor discomfort (always be sure to check with your medical provider before starting any supplements).
Sometimes, when Prodromal labor is happening, it can be a sign that the baby is not in an optimal position, so check out spinningbabies.com or ask your doula or provider how to help get baby in a good spot.
Issues like scar tissue on the cervix can also protract the labor process.
Be patient. It can be hard to do when you have contractions on a nightly basis that never seem to go anywhere, but YOU CAN DO IT!
Hang in there, mama! Labor will happen and your body is preparing along with your baby.
Check out episode 49 of our podcast where Jessica experiences prodromal labor for two weeks before her baby was born!
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