Your belly tightens, your breath catches. You’re having contractions…baby day is here!
Or is it?
For some moms, contractions continue to occur, and even grow longer and stronger, but seemingly without bringing the delivery any closer – even for a few days or more. This often-frustrating scenario is called prodromal labor.
What is Prodromal Labor?
Prodromal labor, or sometimes called the latent phase, is a form of early labor characterized by contractions which are irregular in length and frequency. Prodromal labor may start and stop a number of times toward the end of your pregnancy, or happen continuously for up to several days. It may simply be a little inconvenient or annoying, or it could really interfere with your ability to relax, live your life, and wait for active labor to kick in. It’s more common than you might think! (Why haven’t you heard of it? Because many people mislabel it “false labor”.)
Prodromal Labor or Braxton Hicks?
Prodromal labor is also different from Braxton Hicks contractions: they feel more like real labor and can produce slight change to the cervix. Braxton Hicks contractions do not progress the cervix, and usually only affect part of the uterus. They also slow or stop if you hydrate and lie down. Prodromal labor continues even when you rest.
Why Does Prodromal Labor Happen?
Every mom and every pregnancy is so different, that there isn’t one pinpointed cause to every prodromal labor. Contractions can be brought on by a lot of physical activity and stress (we’ve been seeing it quite a bit lately with the summer heat!), for one thing. Your body is also gearing up to do some hard work and this takes more time for some people. Your breasts are preparing milk, your baby is trying to wiggle into a comfy position centering over your cervix, and let’s not forget the emotional component either. Fears, doubts, and other emotional hindrances can cause your body to respond by “holding back” – whether you’re aware of any specific cause or not.
How Do I Handle Prodromal Labor?
Nobody was ever pregnant forever, but you might start to wonder. You can go ahead and practice any of the coping techniques you learned during pregnancy, and see what works for you. A little extra support will be helpful for you, whether that’s emotionally, physically, or ultimately medically.
While having prodromal labor is definitely a challenging extra layer, we promise it is still possible to have the kind of positive birthing experience you have hoped for. Even though you may require some extra help to get things going, you can still stay positive, utilize the support and knowledge of your doula, and feel empowered through every decision you make for yourself and your baby along the way.