With your baby’s due date just a couple days away, and after going to bed for the evening, you wake-up to some uncomfortable cramps. After several contractions, you begin to think that this is the real-deal and you are definitely in labor. Hooray! Since you know that early labor may last several hours, you try and rest, as you want to avoid getting to the hospital until active later. But after a few hours of consistent contractions, they suddenly stop. What exactly is going on? Welcome to labor purgatory! It sounds like you are experiencing prodromal labor.
So, what exactly is prodromal labor?
Prodromal labor, sometimes called false-labor, pre-labor, or latent labor, is essentially a precursor to true labor. Even though it may be called false-labor prodromal labor is a very real occurrence. It often starts with an onset of contractions just like traditional labor. Prodromal labor contractions may be in a regular or irregular pattern and range from mild to moderate intensity. But the difference between prodromal labor and true labor, is that prodromal labor isn’t progressive, meaning it is not leading to significant changes to your cervix, as true labor does. Also with true labor, your contractions will get stronger, longer, and closer together, and with prodromal labor, your contractions often maintain similar intensity and frequency and then they will eventually stop.
Are Braxton-Hicks contractions and prodromal labor the same thing?
No. Braxton-Hicks contractions are essentially ‘practice contractions’ that you may begin experiencing around mid-way through your pregnancy. Braxton-Hicks contractions can produce a tight uncomfortable sensation, but they are almost always irregular, infrequent, and mild in intensity and duration. Prodromal labor usually occurs when you are near the end of your pregnancy, in the days or even weeks leading up to true labor. Prodromal labor can feel much like traditional labor, and the contractions may be regular and don’t stop by changing your activity, resting, or hydrating like Braxton-Hicks contractions often do.
What causes prodromal labor?
No one knows exactly what causes, but many researchers agree that latent labor is your body’s way of preparing for active labor. Here are a few theories as to what may contribute to prodromal labor:
- Your baby’s position: You may be more likely to experience prodromal labor if your baby is in a breech or asynclitic position. The theory is that your body tries to move baby into a more optimal position (causing your contractions), but then the contractions stop if it doesn’t work.
- Pelvic or uterine alignment: A sub-optimally aligned pelvis or a peculiar uterine shape may lead to prodromal labor contractions.
- Emotions: Women who are anxious, stressed or scared about birth or are dealing with challenging life circumstances may be more likely to experience prodromal labor.
How do I cope with prodromal labor?
If you think you may be experiencing prodromal or true labor, you probably want to call your provider. Your midwife or obstetrician should be able to give you guidance, medical advice, and more information about what to do next. After following your provider’s advice, try to stay calm, rest, and utilize some natural comfort measure techniques to better help you cope with your prodromal labor contractions. Prodromal labor can feel both emotionally and physically exhausting, but it is only temporary. If you are experiencing prodromal labor, try and take it as a sign that your body is working really hard to prepare for birth.
Did you experience prodromal labor during your pregnancy? What helped you manage through these contractions?