What Is Prodromal Labor and How Do You Manage It? - Baby Chick
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What Is Prodromal Labor and How Do You Manage It?

Find out what prodromal labor is, learn about its symptoms, and discover the best ways for moms to manage it.

Updated April 13, 2024

by Kristen v.H. Middleton

Medically reviewed by Kristy Goodman

Obstetrician-Gynecologist Physician Assistant, MS, MPH, PA-C

Prodromal labor (pronounced pro-DROH-mull) is a variation of early labor.9 The mild to strong contractions women experience during prodromal labor feel more like actual labor than Braxton-Hicks contractions.1,2 By contrast, Braxton-Hicks contractions feel mild, occur on one part of the uterus, are somewhat random, and don’t progress. They can usually be quelled by sleep, hydration, or a warm bath.1,3

However, prodromal labor entails having contractions that become longer, stronger, and closer together, but with no change to your cervix.1,4 It’s your body’s way of slowly preparing for labor and usually means the baby is coming very soon.1 However, prodromal labor differs from early labor because the cervix doesn’t dilate.1,2 In early labor, the cervix will dilate up to 6 centimeters.5 To help you get a better understanding of prodromal labor, let’s explore what the symptoms are and how you can manage it effectively.

Symptoms of Prodromal Labor

Here are the symptoms of prodromal labor that you may experience:1,2,6

  • Difficulty sleeping because of contractions
  • Contractions that continue despite rest, hydration, and a warm shower or bath
  • Lack of cervical dilation
  • Contractions that are getting longer and closer together but without cervical dilation
  • Your contractions begin to take a pattern but then dissipate

Best Ways To Manage Prodromal Labor

Managing prodromal labor will look different from mother to mother, but professionals frequently recommend the suggestions below to women who experience this type of contractions. However, if life with your prodromal contractions feels unbearable, talk to your provider about taking medicine to help cope with your discomfort.4 Here are some other ways to manage your prodromal labor:

1. Talk to Your Birthing Professional

Tell your doctor, naturopath, or midwife about the contractions you’re experiencing and ask for their advice.

2. Relax

Ask your partner or friend to give you a massage to help you relax. Or visit a professional massage therapist who’s certified in prenatal massage.10

3. Try Acupuncture

Visit an acupuncturist who has experience and certification to work with pregnant women.10

4. Get Your Stretch On

Yoga and gentle stretching can help ease muscle tension and soreness associated with prodromal labor symptoms.2

5. Have a Soak

A warm bath or shower with added essential oils like peppermint and lavender can help ease tension.1,2,7,8 (Just be sure to check with your birth professional before using essential oils!) However, if your contractions are strong, they may not ease the pain much.

6. Try a Different Position

Try changing positions regularly until you find a position that feels the most comfortable. Examples include lying on your side, sitting in a soft armchair, standing with support, or gently bouncing on a yoga or birthing ball.6

7. Practice Birthing Techniques

When prodromal labor starts, it’s also a great time to practice breathing techniques you’ll use in the delivery process. Try meditating or working on your out-breath technique, such as the one you might have learned in childbirth class, from your doctor or midwife, or online.1,2,6

8. Fill Your Belly

Eat high-power, high-protein foods.10 You may experience vomiting with prodromal labor symptoms — I know I did with my first child. However, if you aren’t nauseous, this can be a great time to indulge in a hearty meal to power up for the upcoming birth. Or, you can have small snacks.1,2 For instance, try eating dried fruit, almonds, nuts, granola bars, a bowl of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, a plant-based milkshake, or seaweed snacks.

9. Sing and Dance

Sometimes, playing upbeat, happy, or otherwise soothing music can help mothers get through prodromal labor symptoms.1,2,9 You can gently walk and listen on headphones, dance gently and safely in your living room, or lie down and turn on your speakers.1,6

10. Talk to Your Tribe

Calling and speaking with a friend, loved one, healthcare provider, doula, or therapist can be a great way to process the emotional stress of prodromal labor. Knowing you’re loved and supported by the people around you may help give you strength, motivation, and new strategies to get through the final days leading up to childbirth.

11. Stay Hydrated

Stay hydrated with water or coconut water.1,2,10 I drank a lot of coconut water before and after my pregnancies, which helped me stay hydrated and full of electrolytes. Plus, it tasted great! A few other power drinks for pregnancy and delivery include:1,10

  • Orange juice
  • Pregnancy-safe tea with coconut milk and honey
  • Electrolyte drinks (free of artificial ingredients)
  • Bone broth
  • Green drinks (fresh vegetable and fruit smoothies or juices)

12. Try Positive Visualization

You can do this simply by closing your eyes and imagining a picture of you and your baby or your partner with your baby after they’re born. You can also journal a positive visualization with words or make a picture.

Remember, prodromal labor means your baby is getting closer to being here!1 If you’re unsure whether you’re actually experiencing prodromal labor, it’s best to contact and visit your healthcare provider. They’ll usually perform a pelvic exam on you and can help answer all your questions and concerns. You’ve got this, mama!

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Kristen v.H. Middleton is a Clinical Psychologist in training (PsyD), a Yale University graduate, former school teacher and administrator, turned stay-at-home mom. She lives with her husband and children in… Read more

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