How many of you experienced prodromal labor? How long did you have prodromal labor before you went into active labor? How closely did your prodromal labor mimick your active labor?
Often in the past prodromal labor has been given the misnomer "false labor", yet every woman experiencing it has said in frustration "There's nothing false about what I'm feeling!" The misunderstanding has arisen because prodromal labor can feel very much like active labor, yet is not consistently progressive; it does not lead without a break to the birth of the baby. It does, though, serve an important function in the birth process. Prodromal labor does the preliminary work of preparing the uterus, baby and cervix for birth. All of this work has to be done before the baby can be born. Some women's bodies do it all without her being aware of it. However, some women's bodies draw a great deal of attention to the work being done. Too much sometimes.
"This is driving me crazy," one pregnant mother sighed. "I've been having contractions off and on now for three days. Just when I think it's time to call my midwife, they completely stop again!"
- Prodromal labor contractions may begin hours or even days before active labor.
- The contractions may feel like Braxton Hicks contractions or they may be quite a bit stronger.
- They are irregular in length, frequency and intensity. The key word here is irregular. In general though, they are not longer than a minute and not more frequent than 7 to 10 minutes apart. They shouldn't be so intense that they take your breath away.
They may or may not be affected by your activity. The wisest course is to vary your activity level, alternating periods of mild activity with rest.
- The cervix is moving from a posterior (back) position to an anterior (forward) position.
- The cervix is softening.
- The cervix is beginning its effacement or thinning. It may thin anywhere from 0% to 50% during this stage.
- You may lose your mucous plug from the cervix.
- Your cervix may begin to dilate, opening anywhere from 1 to 4 centimeters.
- You may be quite excited when you first feel these contractions, especially if they are stronger than any you've had until now.
- As time goes on and the contractions continue without any apparent progress you may feel let down and eventually become quite tired and discouraged.
How To Cope:
- Resist the urge to call everyone immediately and tell them you are in labor. That way you will feel less like a watched pot waiting to boil. You should be able to handle these contractions with some relaxation techniques and concentration. If they are any stronger than that or you just aren't sure, you might want to go ahead and call your doula, she can help you to evaluate exactly what is going on.
- Use these contractions to get to know how your body feels as it begins the hard work of labor. Prepare mentally for the challenges you will shortly be facing.
- Now is not the time to hike ten miles or tromp through the mall for hours in a vain attempt to get labor going. You will just wear yourself out and have that much less energy for active labor.
- Be sure to eat well. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains are especially good now; they will provide you with plenty of energy reserves. Try to stick with foods that are easy on your digestion, you don't want to be dealing with heartburn on top of labor.
- Get plenty of rest. Even if the contractions are keeping you awake at night, nap as much as you can. Again, you want to conserve your energy for the hard work ahead.
- Resist as much as possible the urge to focus too much attention on these contractions. The more you watch, the more time will drag. Try to find some distracting activities to participate in.
- Keep your spirits up; remember that these contractions are doing important work!