Prodromal Labor

Prodromal labor seems a very cruel twist of nature. The kind of labor that has you doubled over and rushing to your birthing place only to be told its “false” labor, and sent home. Sometimes sent home with little or no hope as to what to do or how long it will last.

Prodromal labor has been on the rise. Gail Tully, CPM founder of Spinning Babies said on a podcast episode of Birth Kweens that when she began her career she hardly ever saw cases of prodromal labor. Now they are everywhere.

Lets discuss what prodromal labor is, what causes it, what is the emotional and physical toll, How do you know if you are experiencing it, How do you know when it turns into Active Labor, How do you cope through it, and how do you get baby in a better position?

1. What is Prodromal Labor?

It is labor that is strong enough to feel intense but not strong enough to cause cervical change or move baby down. What this looks like can vary between different mothers and different pregnancies. There is very little statistics or research on it. Mostly because cases of prodromal labor often turn into induction scenarios in hospitals.

2. What Causes Prodromal Labor?

There are many possible causes for prodromal labor but we will go over the most common.

Exhaustion. Labor is a marathon and entering into it without the necessary energy reserve can cause your contractions to be irregular or ineffective.

In our society we have become much more stagnant. Even if you work a job where you are frequently on your feet you might be standing in one spot or conduct repetitive movements and when you are off work you might be less active.

Stress is also another factor. Especially if you have been trying to go into labor, have stressful circumstances going on in your life, or some other factor that is causing anxiety. Effective labor thrives on relaxation. The same hormone that is triggered when we are feeling rested, relaxed, loved, and happy is one of the same hormones necessary for labor (Oxytocine). And just like tense muscles inhibit every other activity in our lives it is the same when we are in labor.

The likely most common cause though is baby not being in the proper position. Gail Tully talks about how are bodies need balance to function optimally and that is especially true during pregnancy. Sleeping mostly on one particular side, always crossing the same leg, carrying your bag on the same shoulder, etc are all things that subtly throw our body out of balance. And if your body is out of balance then your uterus could be out of balance. And having that lack of balance can limit baby’s ability to get into the ideal position.

Now thankfully there are a variety of ways to get your body in balance, rested, and relaxed! And we will talk about all of that further on.

3. What are the emotional and physical tolls of Prodromal Labor?

Prodromal Labor can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. It can be constant or intermittent. This can be draining emotionally for many reasons. For starters feeling constantly like this could be labor only to discover it’s not can be discouraging.

How do you know if you are experiencing Prodromal Labor?

If you are a first time mom labor is a brand new experience. And even with subsequent pregnancies time can muddle your memory of labor and on top of that labor can be so different from pregnancy to pregnancy.

Prodromal labor will often times be felt in lopsided areas of your body, for instance on one side more more on one side than the other. It will often times have uneven patterns, that can look like having a strong contraction followed by a few easier contractions, having different lengths between contractions, long break periods between a few patterned contractions, or Contractions that aren’t lasting a minute or more. I will be talking about recognizing true labor patters further on.

The easiest way to know is to have it confirmed by a care provider.

How do you tell the difference when Active Labor finally starts?

If you have been experiencing prodromal labor, especially if you have been experiencing it for a day or more, you may have a grasp on an irregular labor pattern. So when you are evaluating how to know when active labor begins you are looking for something that looks and feels different. You’re looking for something that has patterns and regularity.

It is possible that Active Labor will be more intense but try not to focus on that and focus on rhythm.

How do you Cope Through Prodromal Labor?

  1. Do not minimize or ignore what you are going through. It is real and it can be a struggle.
  2. Rest when you can. You don’t know how long the prodromal labor will last and you will need to keep your strength up. Also exhaustion is a common cause of prodromal and stalled labor.
  3. Take a Warm bath. This can help ease tense muscles and encourage relaxation.
  4. Distraction. Find something you enjoy to distract you. This can help make the time pass faster and help ease your stress level. And if it’s a fun activity it can help increase your oxytocin levels.
  5. Massage. Have your partner give you a massage. This can help soothe and relax you and again help increase oxytocin levels. A professional massage also has benefits.
  6. Try some yoga. Gentle yoga stretches can help ease tension, help encourage relaxation, and also create balance in your body. We will talk more about that in the next section.
  7. Reposition yourself. Leaning into positions that make labor more comfortable is a great way to listen to your body and give it what it needs to get baby in an optimal position. As baby works to rotate and move down, avoiding staying stagnant can be a big help!
  8. Get moving. Gentle movement like walking can be great to encourage balance in your body and ease tension.
  9. Stay hydrated. Being hydrated is good for labor anyway but especially the prodromal labor that lasts and lasts and last. If you add dehydration into the mix it can cause the contractions to feel more intense but be less effective. Drink after every contraction!
  10. Keep eating. It has been conclusively proved that eating during labor has better outcomes! After all you wouldn’t starve yourself and then run a marathon. And with prodromal labor you will need as much nourishment as you can get.
  11. Focus on your breathing. Oxygen has immense power to give you energy, ease tension, ease pain, and increase oxytocin levels.

How do you get baby in a better position?

First of all I highly recommend you check out Spinning babies! They have a variety of free resources and a wealth of other resources.

Being proactive during as much of your pregnancy as you are able can reduce your risk of prodromal labor. But even if you are not working towards getting baby in a better position until after prodromal labor it is not too late!

There are many techniques in the spinning babies for all kinds of labor patterns. But I will share my favorite ones that I reccomend for every pregnancy and labor!

1. Forward Leaning Inversion:

Photo and technique credit: Gail Tully, CPM founder of Spinning Babies

This technique can help move baby out of the pelvis to give them the wiggle room they need to get into optimal position. Never do this position by yourself and ease in and out of it gently! If you do not have someone to help you doing a gentler version like the one below can be helpful!

Photo Credit: Namastefit Technique credit: Gail Tully, CPM founder of Spinning Babies

2. Side Lying Release:

Do the side lying release for 3-5 minutes or for 3 contractions on each side. This can help loosen the muscles in the lower back and pelvic floor.

3. Do some yoga

The last tip I have for getting baby into a good position is to do yoga as often as you can. There are various poses that are safe and easy to do during pregnancy and keeping your body loose, balanced, and strengthened will be a huge help.

And again remember that Spinning Babies has a ton or resources so be sure to check them out!

Thank you for joining the discussion!

Abbey Barnosky

Birth, Postpartum, Bereavement, and Sibling Doula, Breastfeeding Educator, Post Abortion Counselor, Photographer, and Artisan in Fort Worth Texas.


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