Prodromal labor by definition is labor that starts and stops before fully active labor begins. Sometimes it is referred to as “false labor” but this isn’t really accurate because prodromal labor can produce a small amount of cervical change, however, it isn’t active labor. The medical community hasn’t been able to determine the cause of prodromal labor. It is believed that it is the body’s way of “warming up” but in truth, active labor could be days…even weeks away.
Expecting moms who experience prodromal labor many times see it as an annoying, emotionally exhausting, seemingly cruel joke that your body plays on you. The contractions are frequent (usually every 3-5 minutes lasting almost a minute) and don’t stop. They are uncomfortable. You can’t sleep or rest comfortably during them. They are just strong enough to make you believe you are going to see your baby soon so you get out your trusty contraction app and start excitedly timing…but then they don’t progress. They also go on for hours and hours, particularly in the evening. Emotionally, prodromal labor can make a mom question everything about herself and her body and wonder if she will know when she is in active labor.
If you do a Google search for prodromal labor you will find forum after forum of frustrated moms who are having painful, frequent contractions that are not progressing to the next phase of labor. They are begging for a solution that will either put them into active labor, or relax their uterus. Many a mom has found herself at the brink of insanity trying to get her prodromal labor contractions to kick over to active. When you have been pregnant FOREVER and are ready to meet your baby, prodromal labor can feel the proverbial carrot on a stick.
Prodromal labor is not an indication of an abnormality and it does not mean that your body isn’t working for you. It is a variation of the “normal” labor pattern and the name of the game for prodromal labor is to REST and SAVE YOUR SANITY. Here are some of our practical tips for surviving prodromal labor:
- Hydration and Hydrotherapy: We know mamas get tired of hearing us tell them to drink a big glass of water as if it is answer to all that ails you, but hydration is crucial to “homeostasis” and keeping the body operating as it should. Also, getting into a tub of warm water with some Epsom salt and soaking while listening to some relaxing music can help. Being in the water will often “wash away” a lot of the confusing sensations and help contractions to decrease or completely stop.
- Get INACTIVE: Try lying down in the EXAGERATED SIMS position and resting. Many women go for long, exhausting walks or exercise sessions trying to “get things going” but find it makes little change and increases fatigue. If a nice, 20-minute brisk walk doesn’t take contractions to the next level, then REST. If contractions are keeping you awake at night, call the office for some options to help you rest in the evening.
- Try the MILES CIRCUIT: You can find full instruction for the Miles Circuit HERE. If the issue is baby’s position, then these poses might help convince your little one to line up and your uterus to settle down. This VIDEO from Spinning Babies also offers some practical advice.
- Nourish your body: Make sure you are eating! Hunger makes your mind and your body irritable.
- Get a massage: Find a massage therapist who has experience working with pregnant moms and get a good massage. Use deep breathing techniques during your massage to get the full benefit of a relaxed body and mind.
- Unplug: Consider taking some time away from communication and social media to focus on self-care. Be careful of crowd sourcing for information as it can be overwhelming and impractical.
- Meditation and Relaxation: Sometimes you do all the right things physically but the contractions keep coming. Tapping into the power of your mind is very effective. Get in a quiet place and listen to some relaxing music or use an app like INSIGHT TIMER to find a guided meditation. Remind yourself as you relax that your body is working for you and that your baby will come at just the right time.
- Consider journaling your emotions: Use this time to clear any fears and anxieties that you are experiencing. You would be surprised how strong the connection between your body and your emotions is. Write it all out.
- Spend time with your partner or a friend: Go out to dinner or coffee. Choose somewhere where you can occasionally stand and walk if needed for comfort. But enjoy some good connection time with someone you care about who will listen to your frustrations without judgement. NOTE: Sex can increase the intensity of prodromal labor but usually only for a couple of hours. Get in a nice warm tub or shower afterwards if that happens!
- Binge watch a new show: If all else fails, occupy your mind with several episodes of that show you’ve been meaning to watch for a while now! If you have a cheesy reality show series that you’ve been saving for a guilty pleasure moment, this is it!
Please call our office and talk to a midwife before taking any medications or herbal supplements for contractions.
Prodromal labor is a mind game for many women. The key is to calm the body and mind and occupy yourself in the waiting. Active labor does eventually come and you will be holding your baby before you know it.
But as always, please call the office if you have any abnormal symptoms, questions or concerns.