What is Prodromal Labor?

What is Prodromal Labor

Table of Contents

As your due window (37 weeks to 42 weeks) approaches, you may start experiencing contractions that come and go but don’t seem to progress into active labor. This type of labor is known as prodromal labor or false labor. While it can be frustrating and exhausting, it’s a normal part of the labor process for some people. I myself experienced Prodromal labor with my third and fourth baby and completely understand how frustrating it can be to think you are in labor only for things to pitter out. So let’s talk about prodromal labor and what to do if it occurs.

What is Prodromal Labor?

Prodromal labor is a type of labor that can last for hours or even days before active labor begins. During prodromal labor, you may experience regular contractions that increase in intensity and frequency, but they may not be consistent or strong enough to cause your cervix to dilate. This type of labor is also sometimes called “false labor” or “pre-labor,” and it can be frustrating because it can feel like you’re making progress only to stall out.

What Causes Prodromal Labor?

The exact cause of prodromal labor is unknown, but several factors may contribute to it. For example, some women may experience prodromal labor if their baby is in a difficult position, such as a ‘Sunny side up baby’ or posterior where the baby’s back is on your back and they are facing frontwards. Additionally, prodromal labor may occur if your body is not yet ready for active labor or if you’re experiencing anxiety or stress. Most often I have seen people experience this if they are not hydrating, low in electrolytes, pushing their body to be too active, or not getting nutrient-dense meals. So what do you do then??

pregnancy hydration

When to Call Your Midwife or OB?

Prodromal labor can be exhausting, but it’s important to conserve your energy for active labor. Here are some tips to help you manage prodromal labor:

  1. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich drinks to stay hydrated. Dehydration can make contractions more painful and cause them to last longer. Our pain tolerance is improved when we hydrate! Water with an electrolyte packet like Liquid IV  or Re-Lyte are great, as well as coconut water or herbal teas. 
  2. Try the Miles Circuit. Sometimes the baby is just in a wonky position and not correctly applying their head to the cervix to encourage labor. The miles circuit can help get the baby into a more favorable position for labor.
  3. Take a Warm Bath: A warm bath can help ease discomfort and relax your muscles. Adding epsom salts and lavender oil can be extra relaxing for you and your tired muscles. 
  4. Practice Relaxation Techniques: Try deep breathing, meditation, or visualization exercises to help you relax and manage any anxiety or stress you may be feeling. Hypnobirthing can be a great tool for this! 
  5. Rest: Prodromal labor can be exhausting, so it’s important to rest as much as possible. Take naps, go to bed early, and rest between contractions. You can build yourself a comfy nest in bed with your pillows and your water and snacks nearby.

What to Do If You Experience Prodromal Labor?

If you’re experiencing prodromal labor, it’s essential to keep in touch with your birth team. They are there to support you and can help if necessary or if you desire. Your midwife can suggest certain herbs to alleviate prodromal labor. You should contact your birth team if:

  1. You experience severe pain or discomfort that doesn’t go away with rest, hydration, or changing positions.
  2. You have vaginal bleeding or discharge
    You notice a decrease in fetal movement.
  3. Your water breaks, or you experience any other signs of active labor, such as consistent contractions or a change in the frequency or intensity of contractions.

In Conclusion

Prodromal labor is a normal part of the labor process for some people. While it can be frustrating and exhausting, there are steps you can take to manage it and conserve your energy for active labor. Stay hydrated, change positions frequently, practice relaxation techniques, and rest as much as possible. Don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if you have any concerns or if you experience any signs of active labor. After experiencing prodromal labor a few times, you might feel hesitant to contact your birth team about being in labor because you might think it is fake. I suggest keeping in contact and letting them know what is going on! You are never a bother and they are there for you on your journey, prodromal labor and all!
Jenni Jenkins Sekine Student Midwife

Jenni Jenkins – Sekine is an Oklahoma Student Midwife, Midwives Assistant, Birth & Postpartum Doula, and Child Birth Educator who serves her Central Oklahoma  community. She began her journey as a student midwife in 2022 at the Midwives College of Utah.

To learn more about Jenni, please click here.

More Posts

Managing Itchy Skin in Pregnancy

Itchy Skin in Pregnancy

Battling Itchy skin in pregnancy? Pregnancy is a time of immense change and excitement, as your body prepares to welcome

Bellyaches & Baby Kicks Navigating Abdominal Pain In Pregnancy

Abdominal Pain in Pregnancy

Bellyaches & Baby Kicks: Navigating Abdominal Pain in Pregnancy Navigating through the journey of pregnancy brings a mix of excitement