How to Handle Prodromal Labor

By Maria Magher
Pregnant woman with hands on stomach.

Women in prodromal labor experience ongoing contractions for a day or more without making any progress toward delivering the baby. The contractions may come at irregular patterns, and they may not help the cervix to dilate or efface, or do so only very slowly. Prodromal labor can make you feel exhausted and discouraged. Relief measures like taking a warm bath can help you deal with the pain of the contractions and get some rest.

Signs of Prodromal Labor

During the first stages of labor, your cervix will begin to dilate and you will have contractions that last 30 to 90 seconds. Contractions should occur regularly, and slowly come at shorter intervals as you move into active labor. The end of early labor is typically marked by contractions that appear five minutes apart, which is when most doctors advise women to go to the hospital. In prodromal labor, contractions may appear erratically for 24 hours or more without moving toward closer intervals. In some cases, contractions may appear for several hours over several days. The contractions can be painful enough to make you uncomfortable and keep you from sleeping.

Distinguishing from Braxton Hicks

Braxton Hicks contractions can feel similar to prodromal labor. These are contraction that can occur for 30 seconds to a minute at irregular intervals. For most women, Braxton Hicks contractions are just uncomfortable, not painful. Braxton Hicks contractions are typically short-lived -- not lasting hours like prodromal labor -- and they subside quickly with comfort measures like walking. Braxton Hicks contractions also have specific triggers, such as increased physical activity, having a full bladder, having sex or being dehydrated.

Comfort Measures

Prodromal labor can be frustrating because it can be just as exhausting as early labor without the progress. Continue eating and drinking in small amounts to maintain energy. Engage in activities that are enjoyable and will distract you, such as watching a movie with your family, listening to music or reading a book. Consider psychological blocks that may be holding you back, such as fear of labor. Use meditation and visualization to help you get through these anxieties.

When to Call a Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any vaginal bleeding or fluid, as this could indicate a serious problem. If your pain is so severe that you cannot walk through a contraction, call your doctor. You could actually be in active labor, or there could be another problem. Also call your doctor if you feel less movement from your baby, particularly if you feel fewer than 10 movements every two hours. Your baby could be in distress.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.