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By definition, the word prodromal means “The symptoms one experiences before the onset of the actual condition.” In pregnancy, prodromal labor will include symptoms of labor (ex: mild to strong contractions) that unfortunately aren’t progressing into an active, productive labor pattern or significant dilation of the cervix.
Prodromal Labor- what does it feel like?
Prodromal Labor is unlike the Braxton Hicks contractions that most women experience during the latter half of pregnancy. Braxton Hicks are generally mild, irregular, sometimes affect only one part of the uterus, and do not become longer, stronger and closer together. They can be stopped by rest, sleep, hydration and/or a warm bath or shower.
Prodromal labor contractions feel more like labor contractions – they are stronger and can’t be stopped by rest, sleep, hydration and/or a warm bath or shower.
Prodromal labor contractions can be painful, in fact, we often see pain out of proportion to the amount of dilation. This can take its toll on couples emotionally. Your expectations are not being met and you may question, “If I’m feeling this way now, how will I be able to cope with active labor?” The truth is, once everything is properly aligned and labor is progressing, you will manage much better. Prodromal contractions are usually felt low in the abdomen and groin.
Prodromal Labor or Early Labor?
Prodromal labor is a variation of early labor. The difference between prodromal labor and early labor is that the contractions of early labor most often start further apart and get longer, stronger and closer together while also dilating the cervix up to six centimeters. Prodromal labor may start with contractions strong and close together, but does not dilate the cervix.
The Emotions of Prodromal Labor
- *Confusion- “This is not what we prepared for and were taught in our childbirth class.”
- *Betrayal- “Why is my body not performing the way I thought it would?”
- *Tiredness- “I have lost a full night’s sleep, how will I be able to go on?”
- *Fearfulness- “Will I be able to achieve my goals?”
- *Frustration- “I am ready for this baby to come, my caregivers are not helping me make this happen.”
Signs and Symptoms of Prodromal Labor
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, you may be experiencing prodromal labor.
- -Timeable contractions
- -Contractions that are not getting longer, stronger and closer together
- -Contractions that are very, very slowly getting longer, stronger and closer together
- -Lack of significant cervical dilation
- -Contractions that continue despite rest, hydration, bath and/or a shower
- -Difficulty sleeping because of contractions
- -Stronger than Braxton-Hicks contractions
How Long Will Prodromal Labor Last?
Prodromal labor can last for days but not weeks. Because rest is priority number one, but also extremely difficult to achieve, some women find success with a warm bath and a glass of wine OR Tylenol PM. Rest always trumps “trying to be in labor” unless there are other conditions which need consideration.
Does Prodromal Labor Dilate the Cervix?
Prodromal labor can sometimes change the cervix (soften it or move it from a posterior to an anterior position) but it does not produce contractions that become longer, stronger and closer together enough to significantly dilate the cervix and deliver a baby.
Coping with Prodromal Labor
It may not be what you were expecting, but it will not last forever. You are progressing towards the birth of your baby.
- -Be patient
- -Practice relaxation techniques and remind yourself this is a variation of normal
- -Distraction: watch a movie, go for a walk, play a game, read a novel
- -Positive affirmations
- -Be intimate
- -Take a drive
Strategies to Overcome Prodromal Labor
Most often, prodromal labor is a sign that you and your baby are not aligned well. There is likely a restriction in a ligament, a subluxation in your spine, or your pelvis has shifted a bit thereby not allowing the baby to have enough room to rotate into the birth outlet well. Two things are needed, good alignment and productive contractions.
As your midwife, I encourage you to spend your time and energy on resting, eating and drinking rather than on ways to speed up prodromal labor. However, the list below may be beneficial at the proper time.
- -The Miles Circuit
- -Spinning Babies
- -Nipple stimulation
- -Herbs (Please consult your midwives before taking herbs to induce or intensify labor.)
- -Castor Oil or Enema (Please consult your midwives before using these methods, as they may have some protocols in place which make these more effective.)
- -Stripping Membranes (Done, using sterile technique, by your midwife.)Prodromal Labor can be very discouraging, but don’t lose hope! The end is in sight, and soon, you will be holding that sweet babe in your arms. You can do this!