The Common (And Not-So-Common) Signs of Early Labor
Clues that your little one might soon make their grand appearance.
In The Guide
Every woman’s story of pregnancy and delivery is different. Some have fairly uneventful pregnancies while others are hit with every discomfort in the book. Some women have quick deliveries while others can be counted in days.
Some women can barely tell they’re in labor, and some women experience what’s known as prodromal labor.
You can read every pregnancy book and blog out there to prepare yourself, but there is an air of mystery around the due date and beginning of labor, especially for first-time moms.
How will I know I’m going into labor? Will my water break? How accurate is my due date?
At the first twinge of belly discomfort, you’re running to the car with your hospital bag, only to arrive and then be sent home.
Sometimes called false labor, latent labor, and pre-labor, prodromal labor is the beginning of contractions, but it does not dilate your cervix.
The contractions are real, but they start and stop, never increasing in frequency or intensity. It can start up to a week or even month before you’re due.
While prodromal labor is real contractions, it’s not real labor. You’ll probably feel the contractions at the same time every day, but there’s no need to run to the hospital.
Most mothers who have experienced prodromal labor would probably say that calling it false labor is misleading. It feels like true labor in that the pain and contractions are real. The only catch is that it starts and stops abruptly rather than producing full dilation or birth.
Prodromal labor is known for starting and stopping at around the same time every day. Even for veteran moms, the nature of these contractions can be very confusing, frustrating, and exhausting.
It’s important to remember that experiencing prodromal labor doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong and it doesn’t cause any harm to your baby.
Like mentioned before, prodromal labor is like labor practice so it can get tricky knowing what’s real and what’s not.
It’s not uncommon for expecting moms to be turned away from the hospital for not being in true labor when they’ve experienced prodromal labor.
Here is a list of symptoms to help you define what’s true and what’s prodromal.
Many women take trips to the hospital only to arrive and be turned away because they’re not in real labor.
To hopefully avoid such a trip, learn to recognize the differences between real and prodromal labor.
Even experienced moms can have a hard time telling the difference between prodromal and real labor.
It’s usually better to be safe than sorry, so if you can’t tell the difference you should probably head to the hospital. If it is prodromal labor, your doctor can talk to you about what to expect and when you should come back.
Some people have been misled to believe that prodromal labor is the same as having Braxton Hicks contractions. There is a clear difference between the two, though.
Most women will experience Braxton Hicks during their pregnancy. While they can be uncomfortable, they are not true labor.
A simple way to think of Braxton Hicks versus prodromal labor is this – Braxton Hicks contractions are like “practice contractions” while prodromal labor is like “practice labor” (we’ll talk about why this is a plus later on).
Braxton Hicks contractions are the tightening of your uterus and abdominal wall (some women compare them to menstrual cramps). They can come and go and don’t increase in intensity.
Many times changing positions will resolve any discomfort you might feel. The same can’t be said of prodromal labor.
Most women don’t even feel them. Women who experience them say it’s more of a tightening and discomforting feeling rather than pain.
Prodromal labor follows a regular pattern and the intensity varies. Because they are real contractions, they can be quite painful!
Braxton Hicks contractions can start in the second trimester while prodromal labor only starts at the end of your pregnancy.
Read our guide to Braxton Hicks.
There is some debate within the medical world on what causes prodromal labor. Like many phenomenons surrounding pregnancy, this one widely remains a mystery.
Thankfully recognizing it’s symptoms have been pegged down to a common few. While each pregnancy is different, here are a few common speculations on its cause.
Firstly, be kind to yourself, mama.
There is no shame in contacting your midwife, doula, or doctor if you aren’t sure what’s happening with your body. This is your life and your baby’s life, so make the call if you feel like it.
As this post has outlined, prodromal labor is a trickster of sorts. It likes to not follow the rules we’ve laid out for pregnancy. This in itself can make it very frustrating to experience.
In fact, some women even start to think they’re going crazy from all the false alarms. A respected holistic blogger and mother of six shares her experience with prodromal labor on her site, WellnessMama. It’s important to lean on other mothers who have experienced it before simply because of the self-doubt that tends to arise.
While it can be scary or unnerving, prodromal labor is considered normal. It can be tough to work through, but ultimately you’re getting ready to meet your baby!
Here are some tips on surviving prodromal labor:
Remember that you are nearing the end of your pregnancy marathon. You are probably tired, uncomfortable, and more than ready to hold your baby. So, dealing with prodromal labor is only going to exacerbate any negative emotions you’re already feeling. Rely on your moral support to help you through.
Although it doesn’t seem fair to have to “practice” labor for an extended time, it may be a blessing in disguise. Practice like a champ, mama!
Now is the time to really hone in on your laboring techniques and perfect the strategies you’ve planned to use during labor and delivery. When real labor does arrive, you’ll be anything but unprepared.
Going through prodromal labor is a tough experience. Make sure you have the support you need. And if you have any questions or feel that your pain is something abnormal, contact your doctor immediately.
If you experience prodromal labor, just remember it’s a sign your baby is on its way! Your body is just preparing you for that moment you meet your child. Some women who experience prodromal labor also experience shortened real labor. There’s a little silver lining!
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