So often we hear what a 'normal labour' should look like. We hear how long the 'average' labour lasts for first time moms or 'what to expect when expecting'. And although these can be helpful, most often labour doesn't follow averages or timelines...it has unexpected curves and variations. You might have heard that the 'average labour' for first time moms lasts between 12-24 hours, right? But is it normal if you start feeling contractions over the course of a day but they don't get longer, stronger or closer together? What if those sensations last 18-24 hours or more, but don't grow in intensity or become more patterned? This is called prodromal labour.
Prodromal labour can confuse and discourage first time moms, legitimately so!
In Greek, the "prodromos" means 'running before'. So in general, the prodromal phase of labor refers to the earliest signs that labor is beginning...a running before 'true labour'.
For some the prodromal phase starts with contractions. This can cause excitement and anticipation...labour must be starting!!! These contractions can be quite regular, but usually they do not progress, or become longer, stronger and closer together for some time. The prodromal phase can often last anywhere from 24-72 hours, although it can also come and go in waves over several days. For many women, there are other first signs of labor such as loose stools, vague crampy feelings, losing your music plug and the bloody show. If you are laboring with your second, third, or later baby, you may be susceptible to prodromal labor that comes on at night and fades by morning. The contractions may produce some cervical change, such as softening the cervix or bringing it from a posterior to more anterior position, but won't result in much cervical dilation.
So what should I do if I know I'm having prodromal labour??
If you would be normally sleeping at that time of day/night...SLEEP (or at least try and rest)
Eat well, stay hydrated, empty your bladder regularly and distract yourself from focusing on contractions
Stock your freezer with meals for postpartum
Binge watch your favourite Netflix series
Go get a relaxation massage
Take a nice long bath and relax
At some point, it will not possible to ignore your contractions any longer. Your contractions will be noticeably longer, stronger and closer together.
Because you've distracted yourself and rested through the early labour contractions, you've conserved more of your energy for the part of labor where you will need to focus and work your labor coping skills.
Rest is vital during early labour. If you find that you just can't get comfortable during prodromal labour, you can speak with your health care provider who can prescribe you something to help you get some sleep. After you are able to get some rest, if you are still in a similar labor pattern, you may consider trying some techniques to see if you can help your baby and your body with getting baby into the best possible position for a smooth labor. Call you doula so she can recommend some techniques such as the Miles Circuit, Forward Leaning Inversion, Side-lying Release, Rebozo Sifting, acupressure to get things going and get baby in a optimal position.
The best thing you can do is rest. Keep yourself hydrated, nourished and with hopeful expectation that labour will eventually pick up.
Don't wear yourself out trying to do things to get labor to progress! It's very common with prodromal labor for contractions to slow or stop when you lay down, change positions, or start to relax. If these things cause your contractions to stop, all that means is that its not time yet...but take heart, baby will come!