Start. Stop. Start. Stop.
Contractions come consistently for 4 hours. Then nothing. You fall into a sleepy abyss of nothingness for a few hours before the contractions start up again. And again, they stop.
The next morning you have random and mild contractions. There's no pattern, no consistency, just annoying pain that lasts all day long. Sometime in the mid afternoon you nap and they go away.
Night time falls, the moon rises... they're back. Coming every 3 minutes. Your back and hips ache beyond belief. You're convinced this is it.
You call your doula. She comes to your home to support you but hours later, the contractions slow and eventually stop.
This is prodromal labor. And it is, (pardon my French), a total mind fuck.
Some people call prodromal "false labor" but the reality is, there's nothing false about it. The contractions are real. What you're feeling is real. The mind games are real. Calling it false labor discounts what the laboring woman is feeling and can make her feel as if her body is broken or unable to dilate. This is simply not the case.
The biggest challenge with prodromal labor is that while the contractions are real, they typically aren't strong enough or consistent enough to dilate your cervix, thus prolonging your labor and wearing you out in the process... physically, mentally and emotionally.
So how do you avoid wearing yourself out?
Surviving prodromal labor requires a lot of support, so before you reach the end of your pregnancy, I recommend having a system in place in the event this is a part of your birth journey.
Call Your Doula
This is why you hired her. She will provide emotional support to help you stay present and encouraged. Her expertise will help you determine if this is prodromal or early labor. She'll be able to give you tips on various positions or comfort measures that can help you stay relaxed. Don't be afraid to call her or ask for help. She is always there for you.
Re-Program Your Brain
So much of the labor game is mental. As you can imagine, days or weeks of start and stop contractions would discourage anyone. Build yourself up and get your mind right with affirmations. Print some out and put them all over your house, in every room. Repeat them out loud to reinforce their meaning and strength.
Further, reframe your thoughts around prodromal labor by looking at it as a warm up or a rehearsal for the big day. Use this time to practice your breathing, relaxation and comfort measure techniques that you learned in childbirth class. Get your partner involved with some hands-on support to provide physical relief.
Rest When You Can
Don't hate me. I know rest is what you crave and I know it can be hard to come by with prodromal labor. Find respite in the breaks and sleep when your body allows you to. If you can't sleep, keep the nighttime restful with gentle yoga, warm baths, meditation or something equally relaxing. Can't find a comfortable position? Check out Spinning Babies for supportive positions that encourage relaxation and more optimal positioning of your baby.
Another option for rest is called "therapeutic rest." If your prodromal labor has prevented you from getting quality sleep for days or weeks, talk to your care provider about this option. Therapeutic rest involves medication such as Ambien or Nubain to relax your body and mind to get you to sleep. Often times therapeutic rest is the catalyst for kick starting your labor.
It's easy to be distracted by this annoying labor pattern, not to mention the discomfort or exhaustion may limit your appetite. But nutrition is just as important now as it is in active labor. Eat smaller, high protein meals to keep you fuller longer or try hydrating soups that will nourish your tired soul as well as your hard-working body. Stay hydrated with coconut water, fresh juice, electrolyte drinks or tea.
Dig deeper into self-care and go get a relaxing massage or a pedicure. Not only do these promote relaxation, but certain acupressure points might move labor along.
Be Gentle With Yourself
Ignore your contractions for a long as you can. Alternate rest and activity. Do normal things for as long as you feel comfortable and when your energy is tapped out, give yourself space to rest. Remember, your body is warming up and working hard, so give yourself grace and compassion. Know that you will not be pregnant forever and that in time this prodromal labor pattern will shift and your baby will come.
Prodromal labor can be incredibly challenging and disheartening. But with the right frame of mind and the right support, you will get through it. Did you experience prodromal labor? Share about your experience below and tips on what worked!