prodromal labor

Prodromal Labor- What is it and what can you do about it?

You are 38 weeks pregnant. It is 10pm at night and your labor starts. YAY! Contractions are 7 minutes apart, steady and lasting about 45 seconds. They don't feel like Braxton-Hicks contractions, so this must be the real thing! Steady, real, feeling like labor.

This goes on until 2am when suddenly, everything stops.

No contractions.

No labor.

The next night the same thing happens. And the next, and the next.

Welcome to prodromal labor.

Though not often talked about and poorly understood, prodromal labor is an important subject. Likely the cause of many early trips to the hospital, emotional and physical exhaustion on the part of the mother, and dashed hopes of natural birth, prodromal labor is something that needs to be talked about more and understood better.

What is prodromal labor?

Prodromal labor is usually defined as a labor that starts and stops, sometimes for days on end. Prodromal labor feels like real labor, it acts like real labor and in many ways it is real labor. Sadly, it eventually stops and doesn't result in a baby like active labor does.

Andrea, a birth teacher in Granbury, TX described her prodromal labor like this:

“My second pregnancy I had 3 days of prodromal labor. I started having contractions on Sunday. They would last for several hours and would get closer together but never closer than 5 minutes apart. After a few hours they would fizzle out and then a few hours later start back up again.

Other women experience this for weeks. Kristin, a Chiropractor in Burleson, TX described it thus:

I had 3 weeks of prodromal labor with my third baby with contractions every 15 minutes on the dot. I knew the time by my contractions. Occasionally they would get closer...every 5 min for several hours or every 2 1/2 min for hours in the evenings. It really messed with my emotions.

Different than Braxton-Hicks (which causes no cervical change and which can feel spotty and is generally painless) prodromal labor contractions feel like regular labor and even an experienced mother may be confused and unsure of what is going on. Cori, a birth teacher in Salinas and Carmel, CA said this about her prodromal labor with her third pregnancy, "I went to the doctor thinking I was in labor one of the nights. I had labored twice before, it felt real." Her contractions would last for roughly 6 hours, coming every 5-10 minutes.

Prodromal labor is also different than early labor: prodromal labor doesn't produce a baby in the next 12 or even 24 hours. It starts and seems serious, and then fizzles out, often at around the same time each day.

You can't talk about prodromal labor without discussing the emotional impact it can have. Hailie an birth instructor in Abilene, TX said that, I was REALLY tempted to just go to the hospital - I knew they'd give me Pitocin when labor stalled and I'd end up with a baby. It took a lot of energy and willpower to stay at home. It was the most emotionally exhausting thing I've ever been through. Prodromal labor almost derailed my attempt at a natural birth.

What can you do about prodromal labor?

As you have probably guessed, prodromal labor isn't something that anybody wishes for or really enjoys. Is there anything you can do about it?

Many birth professionals feel that prodromal labor is the result of poor positioning on the part of the baby. Sometimes a baby that is positioned sunny side-up or posterior will want to move into a more optimal or anterior position.

To remedy this, labor is triggered and the body, the uterus and the baby try to make that baby turn into an anterior position. But, after a few hours the body will take a break, only to try again a bit later.

If positioning issues are the cause of your prodromal labor, then there are a few things that may help:

Chiropractic- Every Birth Boot Camp 10 week childbirth class will have a focus (class 3) on chiropractic and the huge help it can be in labor. Chiropractic adjustments specifically those done by an ICPA certified chiropractor, can help align the spine and pelvis and allow the baby to move into a more optimal position.

Position changes- Another thing your class will talk a lot about is position changes for the mother. There is actually a LOT you can do to help encourage an anterior fetal position and your birth class will cover this over and over again. From hands and knees position to birth balls to lunges, there are many tools at your disposal. can also be a great resource for this. Your class will guide you AND your partner through specific things that may help.

Fixable or fate?

It is possible that this is just how some women labor, and maybe you are one of these women. While it doesn't sound fun, it is possible to have a positive and even natural birth experience with prodromal labor. The bad news is that it can be exhausting both physically and emotionally. The good news is that you and your partner will have lots of practice sessions where you can put into use all the relaxation techniques and positions you learned in your birth class. The other good news: often when a woman who has prodromal labor finally goes into the real thing it goes quickly. Your body has been working, warming up, and getting ready for your birth. Prodromal labor isn't a bad thing! It is just one variation of how women prepare for birth.

Prodromal labor isn't a sign that you don't work, but the opposite. Your body is trying to get ready for a great birth! Patience can be hard, especially with the added stress of expectations from yourself and others and the weight and discomfort common at the end of pregnancy. Rest when you can, enlist outside help in the form of your chiropractor, doula, midwife and partner, and give yourself permission to cry when you need to. You CAN still have an amazing birth.

**Note- There is a difference between preterm and prodromal labor. Always contact your provider with your concerns.**



question: will most hired doulas come to support a mother through the prodromal labor? I ask because that seems like a point of care that some women would really benefit from.


Hilary, that’s a great question. You’re right, it’s definitely care the couples would benefit from. I, of course, can’t speak for all doulas. Certified Birth Boot Camp DOULAS are available to you for emotional, informational support via phone or e-mail anytime of the day (after 36 weeks). They are trained to help you cope with ALL stages of labor, including prodromal labor. Sometimes that means phone support, and in other circumstances it means in-person support. Most couples who have had comprehensive childbirth education, like Birth Boot Camp, are well equipped to manage those on-again, off-again labor patterns without their doula present, which is great because they know when the real-deal begins they want a fresh and well-rested doula! Ultimately, when you need your doula, she’s there.


I experienced this for the first time with my 4th born last. I had a couple hours tue night, light through weds and then painful in the day thur. Tehy would come 3-8mins a few contractions and then disappear for hours. I was told to stop timing them and focus on other things but you all know that’s hard 40+ weeks:) by dinner time thur I was busy cooking, making lunches for the kids school and then headed up to give baths. I ended up falling asleep at 7pm before helping hubby with baths;) and woke at 8pm with a contraction. Turned out that was the real thing (felt exactly the same but stuck around) our daughter was born 12.28am Friday at home. I do think her position played a role, there is no way to prove it as she was roa and delivered correctly but I labored upright for hours and the moment I laid on my side she shot out. She was still “high” considering I was fully dilated. I had one contraction on my side and with the next the urge to bear down came, without pushing half her head delivered and I was shocked! She was born with the next one.


I beg to differ…I love my prodromal labors! They were gentle and gave us clear signals to get all of our ducks in a row for baby’s arrival. Also! They eased my big babies out gently with no tearing and easy recoveries (8 and 10lbs.). Just began the prodromal with baby number 3 at 38 weeks and am thrilled! IMO, trying to “speed up” a prodromal labor is trying to fix something that isn’t broken. Just one of the very many variations of normal birth.


I am enjoying mine too. This article is soooo negative and off putting. Didnt like it one bit.

My prodromal is rockin!! :)


Going on two weeks of my first prodromal experience. I wouldn’t call it rocking. Id love to hear more about your perspective. Im really starting to lose faith in my body’s ability right now. I never thought I’d be an impatient pregnant lady but im so tired of it not being real. I have adjusted my sleep schedule to accommodate the prodromal. Am very healthy and baby is getting big it’s uncomfortable and painful. I’ve stretched, spun, exercised, taken primrose, red raspberry… I feel so inadequate like this baby is never going to come. I feel like there is something wrong with me. Every time I move or get up my belly is rocksolid. I can literally hear my baby kicking my ribs. Every night it feels like labor is trying to start but it doesn’t… This is my second child… I’d be so happy if an experienced mom would contact me with encouragement or something…..


I am currently going brough this. It’s been 4 days and I’ve tried all the things you have and feel the same way you do. I’m searching for the upside of this. I’m wondering if my body is working :(


Well I’m not trying to “fix what is broken” but some women experience it more painfully than others. Mine is very painful. Not to mention, if you don’t have the option of a homebirth like myself, the medical field is very pushy for induction and medical intervention and makes it extra stressful for an overdue mommy in prodromal labor.


Not everyone has your pain tolerance to “rock” this pain that comes with this experience. This article was comforting for me because I don’t like being in this pain with it bringing no changes in my cervix. Some people clearly enjoy pain while others have trouble tolerating it, like me. It’s debilitsting. I’m exhausted and just want my baby to be here. I am tired of thinking this could be it! I have a toddler, I need sleep at night to be a mom during the day!

Nickie K

Maybe YOURS wasn’t painful, but MINE is and had been going on for 10 days. Glad yours was a blessing, mine has just meant 2 pointless trips to the hospital and no rest for the last 10 days.

Jen N

Me, too. Happened again. Woke me up at 5 with very painful contractions 3 minutes apart lasting over a minute. Went on for two hours. Showered quick, loading bags in the car. Sat down out of exhaustion and they fizzed out completely by 9 am. Slept all day. It’s exhausting physically and it’s frustrating. I’m glad some women can embrace this and enjoy it. Kind of like my son, who says the opposite. If everyone likes something, he hates it and vice versa! I’ve tried to be more upbeat about it, however, I’m enjoying it about as much as a fire drill.


Mine has also been terrible and exhausting. This is my first baby and we’re on day 12 of prodromal labour, which is super frustrating because I went into pre-term labour at 27 weeks and was expecting Baby a little early. I also am losing faith in my body and feel anxious every time a contraction comes because I expect it to stop again and I feel like this Baby is never coming out! I’ve never cried so often over a span of 12 days in my life!


I have been experiencing this with this baby (my third) and also have been SO frustrated. It has been going on for weeks and I’m now 5 days past due. Every time it happens I am so hopeful that it will result in a natural labor so that I won’t have to be induced and every night that it stops – again – I want to cry.

Amanda M.

I feel the same way right now!! Been to the hospital 3 times over the past week! It’s hard to work because these same contractions pop up while I’m working and I work on my feet. I’m losing so much faith. And I’m physically exhausted!


I also appreciated my twelve hours of prodromal labour with my first two, but with my third, I was entirely exhausted by Monday when I had been up for the last two nights with what I was sure was labour – intense contractions every 4.5 minutes, lasting just under a minute. Even when the midwife came on the night of birth, she said yes, I was in active labour and 5 cm dialated, but all contractions had stopped. I asked her to break my water because I could not go one more night like this! Baby was born two hours after she broke my water.


I agree! I am experiencing prodromal labor for the first time now with my 3rd baby. Everything I read about it had such a negative slant, or a blame-everyone-else-because-I-didn’t-know about-this angle.
Yes, birth is painful, can be long, and is definitely unpredictable.


I think this is what’s happening to me too. This is my 3rd and I’m 38wks and5 days. My2nd was 10 lbs. But neither of my other two did i have contractions prior to last stage. This time I’ve been having contractions for the last week usually around the same time each night but only lasting about 1-1 1/2 hours. I keep thinking i bed to go in but no show and my waste hasn’t broken. I’m exhausted and miserable!!


that was meant to be a comment on the original post, not a reply to The Nice Girl Dilemna :)

kasey sandlin

Does this have to happen every night? I think its happening to me and my friend told me about it today. Saturday evening my contractions were 6 minutes apart last a minute each then at 3 AM they stopped. 3 days later the same thing occured but this time contractions were stronger and 2 to 5 minutes apart and came to another complete stop at the hospital at about 3AM again. Its emotionally draining and my back and stomach hurts from all of them. Ive had one child prior to this pregnancy but was induced 10 days after my due date. Please help this really sucks.

Kami hart

I’m not sure this is what I’m experiencing, as I’m only 26 weeks with my second child. All I know is BH contractions dont hurt at all. The contractions I am having every few days are painful in my uterus and causes my lower back to hurt too. My doctor won’t give me any advice as to what’s going on. At one point the contractions last 4 hours and were 3 minutes apart…..but eventually faded and were back to being very irregular. I’m nervouse, and have no clue what’s going on.


Kami Hart, My partner is pregnant with our second child. I think the general rule that BH are painless only applies to the first. She has had painful BH since early in the second trimester, but they haven’t gone anywhere. Maybe your painful contractions could be prodormal labor too, but the rules seem to change for the second baby. Her OB has said that to us throughout the pregnancy. Things happen at different times and feel very differently the second time around. Good luck.


I had very painful Braxton hicks contractions in my pregnancy, they started in the second trimester and didn’t end till baby was born.

Summer Day

I had never heard of prodromal labor until I had it for 7 days with my second child in July 2015, and I’m a physician! All the childbirth books suggest there are braxton hicks, and then there is early labor that progresses to active labor – ta-da! So what a surprise when my painful contractions would happen 3-4 times per hour, get closer together for several hours at night, but then spread out again. Every night. For a week!

I read many blogs and websites about “what to do” for prodromal labor, why it was happening, and how to speed it up. This is one of the better posts I found, and thus I decided to come back after my eventual speedy and healthy birth and post.

For the first few days I tried EVERYTHING I could find on the internet. What eventually helped me get through it emotionally, however, was getting off the internet and instead of trying to speed up my prodromal labor, I tried to appreciate each contraction and imagine it was helping my body get ready for active labor. Instead of spending time on yoga moves and spinning babies, I played with my son, went for walks with my spouse, cleaned and baked cookies, had dinner with friends – stopping to breathe through contractions of course. For me, I needed to avoid the websites telling me the prolonged prodromal labor was due to bad positioning or stress/anxiety in the mother. So, if you find yourself on all these websites with your prodromal labor, and they are not helping, GET OFF THE INTERNET! Do everything you can to relax. Of course it is hard when you are having painful contractions, but whatever you can do to avoid stress during this time was what helped me the most. Also, my husband sent a message to all my family and friends and told them to stop asking me if the baby was here YET. That was helpful. :)

Eventually, it became very obvious I was in active labor – contractions were 4 per hour to all of a sudden every 4 minutes, and my daughter was born 4 hours later. An “easy” unmedicated vaginal birth with no tearing and a speedy recovery. I like to think my prodromal labor helped with that. :)


THanks so much for your comment. Love your perspective! Just might amend the post to add that positive spin!


Thank you so much for your post! This has been going on with me for 2 months! My baby was transverse and has now turned! I’m sure she turned due to prodomal labor ! I’m counting down until DD!


Yours has been the only comment that has made going through prodromal labor more bearable. This has been extremely emotionally taxing… And it’s reassuring to hear someone had a positive, normal birthing experience after all this. Thank you.


Thanks for that!-due baby #3 any day….had quick straight forward labours&ode liveries on first 2….I was up for 2hours two nights ago with contractions every 5-7mins. My midwife has told me/prepared that third babies can ‘play’ with you and stop/start so I was conscious of this happening but for 2hours I kinda thought ‘this may be it’! Alas,on the dot 2 hours in they stopped!-went straight back to bed…wondering am I in for a few more sessions of this before baby actually makes an appearance!?…it did help mentally though,as I tried a few things to see which was best,practiced breathing steady&deep….just a waiting game now I suppose!


Thank you for your comment on this post! It has helped me more than anything else I’ve read! I will sign off now, relax and enjoy the time I have before our daughter is born.

Soon to be first time Mom

Thank you so much for this comment! I’ve been experiencing this prodromal labor for over a week & just recently was told by my Doula what it’s called. Ive done my best to stay positive & am happy to read encouraging messages like this! I’ll continue to stay strong & im getting off the internet so I can remain in a calm confident energy that is appreciating all my body is capable of! Good luck to all out there experiencing this! This is my first pregnancy & I didn’t even know this was something that could happen to my body but my son & I are healthy & im doing my best to enjoy this final time he & I have where it’s just us together💪🏼. Stay strong!!


Thank you, very encouraging . The Internet does make me anxious! Sometimes it’s just too much to handle and maybe better to just go on a walk ..


Worst part of pregnancy.
Baby 2 I had 2 weeks of this. By the time I had active labour my uterus was so bruised from contracting for so long I wanted to die.

This time same thing. I’m going on 3 weeks now and I’m 36+2 magnesium-calcium helps for anyone else experiencing this lovely phase.


I am 39 wks 5 days and I’ve been in prodormal labor for 4 days. I am lucky in that my prodormal contractions have mostly weakened or gone away at night so I have been able to sleep at least some every night . The first day of contractions actually made me feel better about labor and delivery, like I could do this. After 3 days of irregular contractions that come and go, I had my weekly visit with the midwife. A cervical check put me at 2-3 cm with 50-60% effacement. So even though the prodormal labor doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere, it is serving a purpose. That made me feel much better about it too. Of course if this goes on for another week (which would be well past 40 for me), I doubt I’ll feel so positive about it.


I don’t think I appreciate it to. Last for more than 3 days. Mine has been going on since Thursday last week. Was checked but was not dilated at all. Still hoping for the best.


I started prodomial labor at 35 weeks and 5 days. I am now 36 weeks and 5 days still having prodromial labor. I have them consistantly (no periods of rest) with no dialation.. every 3 to 5 minutes apart and I havent been able to sleep… This is my second so when these contractions started I went to the hospital they had me at 3 to 5 minutes with no change on the monitor.. they thought I was dehydrated and gave me fluids hoping to slow down the contractions because of being preterm, fluids didnt do anything. I have been sent home twice in the past week with no dialation from these contractions!
These are intense I have to stop and breathe through them, I am done and would really like them to stop. I have tried taking a warm bath to many other opinions on stopping them nothing is helping..


I had 6 weeks of prodormal labor. It wasn’t fun, calming or relaxing. The only thing that was different in my real labor was that I got sciatic labor which is a whole other level of pain I never wish on anyone. I never got the build up, they started 3 minutes apart for 30-45 seconds. 6 weeks of that nonsense. The only thing is each session lasted longer and longer, they started at 2 hours and my last one before real labor was 6 hours! My baby was engaged, facing posterior and as I was told at many ultrasounds after 28 weeks in the perfect position for birth. My issue I think was cervical change. I effaced completely before I dilated. The only thing may be that I had a huge gush 4 days before her birth, thinking it was my waters I rushed to the hospital. I had had an ultrasound about two days before then and there was water between her head and my cervix, now on that day that bulge was gone but since the bag wasn’t ruputured they sent me home. I probably had two layers of fluid and the outer one broke but not the main one.

When I went into labor it was 8 hours and done, 9.30am to 5.30pm. I was 4cm at 3.00pm when I finally got to the hospital and she was pushed out at 5.30pm, I was complete by 5.00pm. Prodormal labor sucks, it isn’t pain free and it can be humiliating going to the hospital because you’ve waited it out as long as you dare only to be sent home.

Mary Holley

This is all well and good, and makes sense (I was an OB nurse for 34 years), but it’s NOT ok, and shouldn’t be just something to be tolerated, when Mom is only 33-34 weeks pregnant. There needs to be more done to stop it from happening – not just say “this is how it’s going to be”. Now, whether that’s realistic or not, is anther question, of course, but – the last few years of my OB experience was working in the NICU, and a pre-term baby isn’t something to be taken lightly either.


Mary, that is such a good point. I am 37w3d, and I have been contracting painfully, experiencing intense pelvic pressure (unable to walk sometimes) and dilating since 32 weeks. I am now 3cm and 70% effaced at a -1 station. Last pregnancy went much the same way, and I felt like my caregivers were at least sensitive to the fact that I was actually showing signs of preterm labor. This time they have basically said, you’re a third time mom and some moms do this… nothing to see here! I partly believe that to be true – that this is just the way my body labors, but I also have had two NICU babies (one early-term and one late-term) and anticipating that again adds such an extra element of stress. The mother finds herself longing for the relief of birth, but of course never at the expense of the baby’s health and wellbeing… so bottom line, very conflicted. There HAS to be a better way to support moms like me. I am thankful to be at term now, so some stress lifted. Now if these nightly contractions would just let me get some sleep …

Letitia hanna

Thank you to all who have posted. This is truly the only thing that has made me feel any better. I am 38w 2d and miserable. Baby was said to be 8lbs one month ago. I am beyond huge but that is the least of it. Been to the hospital twice with very strong contractions but sent home. Two days ago they were 2-6 mins apart for 4 hours at the hospital and told to go home due to not progressing. So very discouraging!!! This is my third pregnancy and it’s extremely frustrating to take care of two children when walking is a challenge. Thank you again for all of your posts and hang in there ladies!


I am so glad I found this post. I am 40+4 and have had 3-4 hours of contractions every night for the last few nights. I thought I was going mad as my first two pregnancies/labours were both super easy, super quick. My first was 5 hrs of labour and second was a very swift 31 minutes of active labour. So I am not totally reassured to hear that prodromal labour can make true labour faster. I am already freaking out about getting to hospital in time! So mentally and physically exhausted though and with two active boys to run around after, I am hoping this baby gets moving sooner rather than later!

Kim bench

I’m grateful for this thread. I’ve never posted ever on a baby site and should. This is my second pregnancy and I’ve had prodromal labor for a week and half now. It’s been a real emotional roller coaster especially as I thought baby was coming early- first week in December. actual due date was December 10 and now we are just about at Christmas Day which will be my 42 week mark and they will have to induce. On Dec. 14 I had 5 hours of consistent contractions 3 minutes apart lasting about 30-40 seconds then after a shower fizzled out. Since then I did acupuncture twice (even the one where they stimulate the needles for half hour- painful) perform the spinning baby moves daily. Sex. Spicy food. Hypnobirthing sessions. Massages. One sweep of membranes (dec. 18)Then after 2nd acupuncture treatment yesterday around 11am contractions started stayed all day until at 6pm were 5 minutes apart for 1 minute lasting 1 hour and so we went to hospital- and only 3cm dilated – medium soft- and baby is -2. So midwife did another sweep – sent me home and labored on for another 7 hours only to fall asleep and have it stop and now it’s on and off randomly. Ive lost mucous plug 2 weeks ago. Had bloody show recently – although I read if it’s more brownish which it was could just be more mucous plug from sweep. Waiting and it’s looking like will have to be induced on Christmas. Totally emotionally exhausted and with a 2 year old at home just want to bring home new baby so badly already. I want to say I’m grateful for this site and other woman who have shared their stories. I don’t know if it’s bad positioning- – anxiety or stress (which I def have) but hope it just happens naturally soon. I do worry about baby so much and just want her in my arms now. definitely going back and forth on getting induced tomorrow but so badly want to trust my body and let it do its thing naturally. Plus dreading going though all those interventions as I had with my first baby( born vaginal with induction-epidural in the end of it) . Ok well sending love to all you mamas out there and you are not alone


I’ve been going through this for the last few days. I’m 37 weeks today. And for the last few evenings the contractions start and are extremely painful. They last about a minute and are about 5 minutes apart. Then after about 4 hours they fade away right about the time I decide it’s time to head to the hospital.

How do I know when it’s the real thing? This is my second pregnancy and it sure feels like it’s real until they suddenly lessen then stop. This is starting worry me because my doctor has told me I can’t have the baby naturally and have a csection scheduled in 2 weeks.


I’m at 41 weeks and have been experiencing this for almost 2 weeks now. The past 24 hours have been very painful contractions, but still not regular (anywhere from 6 to 30 min apart). My first baby was born 13 hours after my first sign of labor so this has been very discouraging and exhausting. Also, the baby dropped about a month ago so life has been less than comfortable since then. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in how this is making me feel emotionally.


I have been having prodromal labor for three days now. Very painful and every two minutes for hours at a time. Then several hours later it’s gone to come back several hours later. This is my third pregnancy and I know what labor feels like. Now new laws in Illinois says they can not do anything to progress labor until after 39 weeks. I was 39 weeks yesterday but the hospital still would not do anything to progress this further. I’ve had previous long labors and I fear this one will come so fast being that I feel like I’ve been in full labor for three days now. Hoping I can make it to hospital once the “true labor” starts.


I really appreciate this article. This is my second pregnancy and I am having my second war with prodomal labor. My first was 3 days of prodomal labor. I was admitted and told to stay 3 times because I was 5 cm dilated only to be sent home twice (third was with baby yay!).

I just had my second night of prodomal labor. And, from my first, I know what it is so we have only gone in once (that first night because I didnt think I would go through this again). Even having done this once before, it is emotionally and physically exhausting as I lay there in bed resisting the urge to get up because I know I need to sleep but can’t.

When my first finally came that third day, with the first contraction of the night I told my husband I didnt care anymore about the birth center (we dont use a hospital) or natural birth. If it stalls again, I am transferring to the hospital and don’t care if he comes out via induction or cesarean. It stops tonight. Thankfully, he did come out naturally at the birth center that night.

Going through it a second time, I am hoping and praying I have one more night if I follow the pattern of my first. Reading this article has been emotionally helpful. Its demoralizing going through it a second time. Especially because we thought the first time was due to an anterior placenta. This time the baby is ROT with a posterior placenta so everything should have been perfect. After reading this article, I am inclined to believe prodomal labor might just be a normal early labor pattern for some women. And I, unfortunately, fall into that category.

Here is hoping I feel that “active labor” contraction tonight.

Oh, note for first time moms going through this, you will know the difference. Prodomal labor is like climbing a ladder only to find a glass ceiling at the top and you can’t reach the next ladder wrung. When you finally break through that glass cielong (because you wont know the difference between early labor and prodomal, they feel EXACTLY the same becausr i personally think they are and is a natural pattern for some women), the next contraction will feel significantly stronger. Thats the end of prodomal and you can finally progress on that ladder. That is when you have transitioned into active labor and hopefully it will progress as it should from there. Labor is one of those things where you dont think it can get more painful, and then it does. This isnt a bad thing when you are having prodomal labor because it means you will know when it is finally moving forward.


My doula shared this article after spending a full weekend at 38 weeks convinced “this is it.” Now more than a week later, to know there is a name for this laboring was very validating.

After the initial 72 hours, I was able to make an appointment with my OB and I felt somehow defeated that I was only 1cm and 50% effaced. I was hoping all that work had not been in vain. In hindsight, I would have liked my doctor to have given me this article and explain more clearly what was happening. And we were doing everything, cinnamon tea, raspberry leaf, dancing, birthing ball, yoga, walking, lunges, squats, eating all the foods on the list, sex… I went from all that effort to move things along to just surrendering to the process and resting more – conserving energy as I approach week 40.


I have read hundreds of articles and comments and this by far takes the cake. This is my baby #4 but it’s been 10 yrs since my last birth. In alot of ways it feels like my first all over again. I now realize that prodromal labor is what I had experience with all of my previous labors. All 3 were contractions timed and consistent and I’d go to the hospital and eventually have medical intervention. After it happened with my first I just figured that how labor was supposed to be so I let the Pitocin flow. I didn’t have epidurals or drugs with any of them but literally wanted to die from the pain. I realize now that (for me) I didn’t have the natural birth I’ve always wanted. Between the Pitocin and being confined to my bed and iv I always felt like birth was missing something. Which brings me to this article. Being 39 wks I was sure when my contractions were every 5 to 6 min lasting for a min for a couple hours that it was time. My husband (this is his first) was rushing around packing bags and ready to go. I kept thinking to myself it just wasn’t time. So naps and showers and everything stops. Needless to say we are both disappointed (this happened in the last couple days) After reading this article I’m so glad I didn’t rush to the hospital. The weather here is terrible, our commute to the hospital is over an hour and in the back of my mind I knew if we went to the hospital they wouldn’t send me home just hook me up to Pitocin and I’d have a baby today. This article is exactly what I needed today. I think I will spend my day nesting instead of wishing labor every minute of the day. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this article, and to all the mammas who took the time to comment. It truly has opened my eyes!


Try reflexology, I had this without knowing what it was and on the third night we were so ready for baby and husband kept taking the day off for nothing so we did foot reflexology massage which kicked in real labor within 2 hours and baby was born 3 hrs after that!


I am 39w today and have had prodromal labor for two weeks now, every evening I have a few hours of contractions 4-6 minutes apart. I’m at the point where the emotional and physical exhaustion is overwhelming me, I have had a tender spot at the top of my uterus that is excruciatingly painful due to the contractions. The first few nights I thought “things are getting started” and thought I’d be in labor within a few days. This being my first baby I also didn’t realize that this isn’t what most women go through. I thought everyone had a lot of BH contractions at the end, but it wasn’t until my doula mentioned prodromal labor that I looked it up and realized that for most women, even at the end, BH are irregular and infrequent (not the 20 per hour I’ve been having daily). I’m frustrated and confused and feel like if I went to labor and delivery they’d do a cervical sweep and things would progress, and at this point it’s very, very hard to keep up the willpower to wait. I’m just exhausted and discouraged.


I am 41 weeks today (baby was due March 3, 2016) and had my first Prodromal Labor experience that started right at 40 weeks and 6 days (and have slowly been loosing my mucus plug since then, FINALLY). It was off and on but on the 41 week mark around midnight it was happening about 3 to 5 minutes lasting about 45 to 60 seconds. Went to the hospital, the nurses were so nice! They said since I was 41 weeks I could stay to be induced but agreed that it would probably the best for me and baby to go back home. I was only 1.5cm and maybe 50% effaced… Today (41 weeks and 1 day) have had a few random contractions and that’s about it…. :( Praying this baby comes on his own soon, really do not want to be induced…


Agreed, this is the best post on this – neither my wife or myself have heard of prodromal labor until my wife got slammed with it last night. Our story: My wife is at 40W2D, last night at about 8 pm started w/ BH’s getting very regular and close. Started timing when it seemed they were less than 10 min frequency. Watched as frequency got closer and closer. Very exciting time, we got our final preps made, final items packed etc… contractions were very benign, like all the books/blogs say early labor should be…….then….. at about 11:30 pm last night, hit her like a freight train, strong contractions that caused her to ball up, wincing in pain, having to breathe through every-single-one, from midnight, to about 7 am. 7 hours of being woken up every 5-7 minutes – it was rough for both of us. Called birthing center at 3 am, they said we’re having prodromal labor – Prodromal what??? – Went online, couldn’t find anything other than forums- which I always take with a grain of salt, read and reread all our baby books, the “what to expect when expecting website” and book have nothing on this, all the literature says early labor contractions *might* be painful, but nothing really describes it well enough to convince me we weren’t in active labor. I was perplexed, and stayed up all night, googling the crap out of this between timing her contractions, frantically googling “early labor pain”, “super painful early labor contractions”, nothing could explain it. Her contractions started about 8 minutes apart, 30 seconds long, by three a.m. they slowly worked down to 5 minutes apart and a minute long, then were down to about 4.5 minutes and started getting to 60-90 seconds long, then worked back up to 6 minutes apart, 90 second duration, and hung out there for about 4 hours until 7 am.

This does not neatly fit any definition of any “phase” of labor. It was like we were having 90 second long painful “active” labor contractions, but 7 minutes apart, which is an “early” labor frequency – didn’t make sense! And we were so absorbed in the contractions and exhausted because all we wanted to do was sleep, that nurses mentioning “prodromal” didn’t sound like a thing- it was a completely foreign term to us. We called the birthing center three times last night, each time the nurses kept nonchalantly telling us – it’s totally normal, never fully explaining exactly what the heck prodromal labor is, beyond just saying “its’ normal”, well no, nothing in the birthing center birthing classes we took, (and I took scrupulous notes) mentioned anything about prodromal labor! I went back and checked every handout, power point, and my notes, not a single mention or explanation.

So my point is, this is a highly misunderstood type of early labor, it is something that apparently is not explained well at birthing classes, and can be a real cause of angst and anxiety for the unsuspecting mom who gets hit with the freight train of contractions at midnight.

post script – ended up calling our doctors office when it opened and they told us to just go in to the birthing center. We get there at about 10:15 a.m. and of course contractions subside, very irregular, 11 mins apart, 4 mins apart, some painful, some not. They did a cervical check and checked all vitals, baby is as happy as a pig in mud and mom’s blood pressure is surprisingly normal given all that’s happened, I am so impressed with her strength quite frankly in awe. Were finally able to get a nap in this afternoon, the two of us, and now we’re getting painful contractions about 30 seconds long every 8-15 minutes apart.

When the doc started doing cervical checks at about week 38, he did say that she has a very posterior cervix. Baby was positioned perfect though, head down, looking good. Mom is not the type to stress, she’s been cool all pregnancy long, so general pregnancy anxiety is definitely not a cause. At 40 weeks, cervix was still very posterior, 90 percent effacement. Today’s check nurse said she was barely at 1 cm, even after all that pain last night.

I don’t know if this helps anyone, but figured I needed to vent to get this out. Here’s to tonight! Hopefully we get through this quickly! Thanks to all the have shared, its helps clear up our confusion and now we can just treat this as a normal part of our labor experience and deal with it without having this gigantic question mark over our head.


My first pregnancy i got preeclampsia at 38 weeks and ended up with a c section. I want a vbac this time and feel like I’m in a race with my blood pressure – will i go into labor naturally or get preeclampsia first? I’m 38 weeks again and no preeclampsia yet, and having prodromal labor. So far so good but I REALLY want this labor to start progressing on its own before i get preeclampsia again. I don’t want to go to the hospital earlier than I need to, to reduce the risk of interventions, because I want a natural birth. Sometimes the desire for active labor is due to more than just discomfort.

My [Home]Birth Experience, Round Two (Birth Story Series) - Indianapolis Moms Blog

[…] On to the blood and guts and gritty details! On June 19th, I was visiting with my doula and friend when I needed to use the restroom and realized I had lost some of my mucus plug. I raced home and started getting the most of what I could together while having steady contractions. This was my second baby and I was overly confident that she was going to be born closer to her due date than her 3 week late brother…boy was I wrong! Many moms experience what I went through on second and third births and I’m confident that this is why I refuse to have a third baby. If you haven’t heard of prodromal labor, you can read up on it here. […]


Im 38w now and been experiencing prodromal labor for 1week. Its been a very emotional roller coaster sleepless nights that I have to bear. Went tosee the doctor and strapped in for CTG. But of course it didnt showed up because its in the morning! The contractions only come during the night, with 2-5min gap, lasted for 3-4hours almost every night. This is so frustrating


Thanks for this article really helpful. I am 41 weeks pregnant and have been going through this for 3 weeks with the joy of an upset stomach and heartburn the entire time.

Exhaustion – emotional and physical – when it gets to this point is actually really scary because you wonder how you can have not even entered active labour and be the most tired you have ever been. My doc and midwives have not offered a sweep and checked my dilation once (3 1/2 cm) which was 4 days ago.

I actually feel like I am going mad and that everything is bruised and hurts in and around my belly. Thinking I am going to cave and demand an induction.


Thank you so much for all the information and comments. Knowing I’m not alone is hugely comforting. I’m going to take the advice of relaxing, resting, and going about my life. I trust my doula that this “practice labor” is purposeful, will pay off, and will hopefully make for an easy and fast labor.


Can being in prodromal labor for days cause fetal distress? I had my son 15 months ago and ended up with an emergency c-section as soon as I arrived at the hospital. We went when I was having regular contractions that last a minute and a half and 3 minutes apart. I was only 3cm dilated when they checked me. Now I am almost 38 weeks along with my third and have to have a repeat c-section and I think I have been feeling prodromal labor all day with period like cramping. I am afraid of another emergency situation if I wait too long to determine and go in but I don’t want to go in every two days if it’s nothing.


Now on week 3 of prodromal labor with my 2nd son. I had never heard of it before. My 1st was sunnyside up and ended with an emergency C. I’m now trying for a VBac, but they will do a C at 39 1/2 wks if he doesn’t come on his own. Trying to have faith and relax during prodromal is a LOT more difficult. It is also taxing on the family. Came home after 13 hrs at the hospital yesterday, dilated at a 2. This was the 3rd “false alarm”. Sure, tell that to the painful contractions 3-4 min apart, nausea, diarrhea, and headaches.


I’m on week 3 of this. It starts everyday around 6am, increases around 10am and again around 3pm (at which point it is miserable) then it slows around 6pm and stops about 8-9pm. I’m currently at 39 weeks and still working. Other moms may find this bearable or even positive, but I wonder if they are trying to work through painful contractions (panting, visibly sweating), nausea, diarrhea and terrible lower back pain for weeks on end?? I’m glad they are able to see this as a good thing, but there is only so much I can take – it certainly doesn’t feel like this is doing anything when my midwife keeps telling me there is no change in my cervix and baby is not engaged.

Estee Loga

This is my second run in with prodomal labor and by far the worst.
I’ve been having painfull steady contractions for 2 weeks now. At times I fear I won’t make it to the hospital in time but I wait them out and sure enough they stop. The back labor is visious.
My body hurts everywhere.
37+2 weeks 5cm dilalated and 90% effaced.
Defeated and I don’t think my body is strong enough for labor.

Lauren Madrid

I’m with you completely! I’m 39 weeks pregnant. 4 cm dialated, fully effaced and +2 station. The docs can’t even believe I can still walk. Every time they have done a cervical check since 36 weeks…it’s ” oh her head is right there!” I have had multiple days of nonstop contractions that literally bring me to tears but not consistant. Every time I think…okay today is it…nothing happens. Yesterday I was having excruciating back contractions for hours on end. Today not one noteworthy contraction to speak of. So totally exhausting and frustrating.


I’m 37wks, been having this for a week now and I’m so exhausted. My doctor really want to induce me because I’m in pain but it’s not legal to do so at 37wks unless of an emergency. It’s so discouraging being at 5cm and nothing is happening and my doctor can’t do anything about it. My baby’s head is so low to the point that who ever check me is surprise he hasn’t pop out yet. My doctor plans to schedule me for induction at 38wks. Just on the side note I have a grade 3 placental calcification and a previous stillborn so my doctor really don’t want to drag this any longer than it already is. Glad I’m not alone on this, I feel better reading other people’s experiences now I’m just playing the waiting game.


4th pregnancy 32 weeks. And have had contractions since week 16. Painful ones started at 24 weeks. They come every 2 mins last for 20-60 seconds for up to 8 hours, and then slow down to every 10 mins all day everyday, until another flare up, and the pain is unbearable. Ended up in hospital at 30 weeks because I was sure I was in labour. I’m so tired, my back and stomach hurt so bad, I want to be done today. I have done everything humanly possible and read every single book out there. Done all natural stuff and been to every doctor. I can’t handle anymore, even with my great coping skills for the contractions, I’m beyond exhausted. Looking for new advice, opinions, help, anything!!! I’m a tiny frame girl and have very small tiny torso?? I also deal with severe back pain for over 20 years. My labours are long and even more painful to the point I pass out, and eventually end up with epidural and baby remains high until after epi. My pushing phases are beautiful arts of work, almost orgasmic, and I love every second after epidural, and feel everything in my vagina, but all feels so good. I’m so confussed why I have not been able to go all natural. I love and understand fully how our women’s bodies are designed and how we are fully capable of giving birth naturally. I am looking for support and help. I want more children after this one, but unsure I can handle labour for 4 months straight. Thank you all. God Bless. Here’s to all mommas bringing babies into this world no matter how it happens to make it a better place. Thank you


Reading this makes me realize that I think I had prodromal labor with my second. I had contractions that I thought were the real thing for about a week leading up to her due date (which was December 31 – we were really hoping for that tax credit! heehee.) I kept thinking labor was imminent.

It happened to be Christmas break for my husband and we just went out to eat, rested and watched movies while my son was at Grandma’s. Then it slowed down and she ended up being a week late, coming January 6.

It was such a quick and easy delivery though. I wouldn’t mind doing it the same way again.


I’ve had this three days apart. Hurt soooo bad I was scared was gonna have baby #5 at home before I reached the hospital. Since it never changed my cervix I was sent home. Still having contractions n all I’ve done today is drink eat n rest. Why is it still coming on so frequently?


I had never heard of this until I found a random pin on Pintrest. I’m only 23 weeks pregnant, but I’d really prefer a vaginal birth. In the country where I live, it is a legal requirement that you give birth to your first child in a hospital, doctors push for c-sections, and VBACs are not allowed. So, I can only imagine that if I went with prodromal labor, they would end up giving me pitocin and who knows what other interventions. So, it’s good to know that this is a condition that exists.


I am a doctor and I have been experiencing prodromal labor for at least 5 days. It has been awful. This is not something they teach you about in medical school. I know my body is doing something, but it is terrible thinking you could be in labor and then having it snatched away from you. It is like someone is constantly moving the finish line just as you get close. I have never been much of a go with the flow person and have planned things out every step of the way.
As you can imagine I am mentally/emotionally not doing well with this and I can only imagine other women who are planners would suffer similarly. Its not so much the not knowing, its more the thinking this could be it and then it turns out not to be. Not to mention being exhausted from lack of sleep and the fact that these are painful. I am just worried I will be so worn out from the prodromal labor that when the real labor comes I will be exhausted. I am going to be about 41 weeks at my next doctors appointment and if I am offered induction I will take it.


To add a little positivity to this semi-negative view of prodromal labour- I had it for our first. 3 days actually. 10pm to 6am. each round they got closer together. I think having these contractions actually allowed me to get into a zone, calm down, and relax oddly enough. By the time the real labour started I didn’t even freak. Called the midwife at 7am she showed at 730 and bam 7 cms. 5hrs later baby arrived. We had all the time in the world to set up the birthing pool and come to peace that this was happening NOW! It was a slight pain in the butt to be awake all night but totally worth it imo! I kinda hope I get them again for baby 2 lol


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