7 Ways to Keep Sane in a Prodromal Labor

As your due date approaches, you eagerly await the beginning of labor. Your bags are packed, and you are just waiting for the right time to arrive so you can finally hold this baby in your arms instead of with your womb. With each Braxton Hicks contraction, you contemplate, “Could this be it?”

Your contractions become more intense. As time goes by and labor pains continue, you might reach for your smartphone—excited to finally put that contraction timer app you downloaded months ago to good use. You time a few contractions and nearly burst with anticipation—they are getting closer together. This is it!

You call your husband, notify your doctor, and send a quick email to your friends. In between contractions, you double check the bags and throw in some last minute items. This is really happening! Knowing that rest is important, you lie down for a little while—trying to build your strength for the upcoming delivery.

Later, you sit up in a panicked realization. Your contractions are gone. You are no longer in any pain. Yet you are still definitely pregnant. Embarrassed, you notify everyone that it was a false alarm, and you go back to whatever it was you were doing before this incident all started. You could also be struggling emotionally—wondering if you’re capable of having this baby; scared that you won’t recognize real labor once it truly begins; or dealing with any number of other fears.

Prodromal labor—labor that starts and then fizzles out—is very real. It can happen every night for three weeks, or just a day or two before your actual labor starts. There is not any definite rhyme or reason to what is happening. It just hurts. If anything, prodromal labor can be extremely frustrating for women who are just ready for the baby to come out. You get to a point where you are just done. If you are struggling with prodromal labor, here are seven ways to keep from going crazy.

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7 Do Not Feel Bad about the False Alarm

If you notified everyone and it turned out just to be prodromal labor and not yet the real thing, do not feel bad. You are not the boy who cried wolf. You are an amazing woman dealing with painful contractions. The pains are real; they are not fake or all in your head.

Your body is unique. If you are one of the women who deal with weeks of nightly prodromal labor, you may have more than one false alarm. While it can be hard to tell if this is the real deal or not, it is better to err on the side of caution so you do not end up delivering a baby on your own.

Your doctor is absolutely used to variations of labor and delivery, including prodromal labor. They are used to false alarms. Your family and friends should not mind either. If anyone does give you any grief, you can just always not tell him or her the next time around.


Take a deep breath and move on—feeling guilt or shame over being sent home will not be helpful to your situation. Talk to someone you trust if you need help getting over it. Hanging onto these negative emotions is not healthy for you or your baby. 

6 Ensure You Take Time to Rest

Prodromal labor is taxing physically, and emotionally. You need to rest, allowing your body to recuperate and gain the strength that you will need later when labor starts again. If you cannot sleep, that is okay. Spending time in bed or lying on the couch reading a favorite magazine or watching your favorite show will help your body rest.

Do not go straight from prodromal labor pains to tidying up the whole house. It is not time to tackle everything on your growing to-do list. Realize that your body went through a taxing experience, and give yourself permission to rest.

Talk To Your Doctor

Rest during all stages of pregnancy is essential. Prodromal labor is no different. If you are not able to settle down and rest, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to recommend something to help you relax. Some doctors will recommend a light sleep med, or even checking into the hospital for therapeutic rest if you just cannot sleep. Remember not to take any drugs for sleep without consulting a health care professional—many of them, including over the counter drugs, can cause problems for your baby. 

5 Engage Your Mind in Something Else

Once you have rested, engage your mind in something besides your prodromal labor. Work on a crossword puzzle, tackle a project for work or start a side gig. Whatever you do, get your mind off your pregnancy for a little while.

Your goal is to stop anxiety and stress in its tracks. Take a mental break from your pregnancy, and give your brain a few hours without stress hormones attacking. It could be just the bit of respite that your brain desperately needs.

Talk It Out

If nothing else is working, try talking to someone close to you. Alternatively, see if you can arrange for a ladies’ night out or a special date night with your man. This break could even help your labor pick back up—this time for real. That is because anxiety can have a real impact on labor, and even cause it to stall in the first place. 

4 Ask Your Doctor about Your Baby’s Position

Some experts believe that prodromal labor is more likely when the baby is positioned in a less than ideal position. These positions could include sunny-side up where the baby is face up instead of face down, or asynclitism where the baby’s head is tilted in an odd way. These positions can put pressure on different spots in your body, and it can take extra time and contractions to get your body aligned for birth.

Talking to your doctor or midwife about the position your baby is in can help you to gain a better understanding of what is happening. If you discover that your baby is indeed positioned in an other than typical presentation, do not fear. See if your doctor can recommend exercises to help your baby turn to a more ideal location. Even if that is not possible, remember that many women have birthed babies in these positions; it just may take some extra time for you both to get ready.

A Birth Ball Is What You Need

Bouncing on a birth ball may help. Even if it does not help move your baby into a better position, it is a good way to work through contractions. It is also a very comfortable way to watch TV or read a book. Bounce away—as long as you are not making yourself short of breath or have any restrictions on your physical activity.

Walking can also help baby to change positions. When you are upright, gravity is at work. You could go for a long walk when your contractions start up and see if that helps keep it going. Even if it does not knock your labor into overdrive, you will still be getting benefits from the walking.

3 Remember that Your Prodromal Labor IS Doing Something

Even if your prodromal labor pains don’t produce a baby, keep heart—they are doing something. Prodromal labor can dilate and efface your cervix. It can get baby all lined up and ready to drop. Even if your body is not making measurable changes, prodromal labor is flooding your body with hormones.

Those hormones are doing something. In fact, many women who deal with prodromal labor go on to have fairly short active labor stages. That is because most of the behind the scenes components of labor and delivery have already been taken care of, beforehand.

Calm Yourself Down

Build yourself up with some positive self-talk, and take a deep breath, or three, or twenty. Use those labor meditations you prepared. Your labor is not in vain. You can do this mama! 

2 Use Prodromal Labor as a Way to Practice Breathing—For Real

Trying to practice all of your breathing techniques when you are not actually having labor pains is hard. You do not have the motivation you need to get those deep breaths in. However, with prodromal labor you have a definite practice advantage.

Many of the contractions in prodromal labor build in intensity compared to Braxton Hicks. You may not even be able to walk through them because they hurt! Use these pains to put your birth class lessons into action. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

Work With Your Partner

In addition to breathing practice, prodromal labor can be a great way for your partner to practice being supportive. You can see if you like being rubbed or touched during a contraction, or if you just want to be left alone. Prodromal labor is sort of like a dress rehearsal—you can give everything a run through and see what works best. 

1 Treat Yourself to a Relaxing Massage Session

Treating yourself to a spa day can help you to relax, and take your mind off labor. Pampering yourself has many benefits. You will be focusing on you, and doing something great for yourself. When the baby comes, you might not get another opportunity for a while.

Take in a relaxing massage while you are at the spa, or enlist the help of your partner. Use scented oil that makes you relax, and let go of all of your anxiety. Just concentrate on the feeling, on letting everything else go. Make certain that any treatments you indulge in at the spa are safe for pregnant women. A quick check with your care provider can help alleviate any fears.

This Too Shall Pass

If all else fails, and you are still struggling with prodromal labor, there is one important thing to remember. You will not be pregnant forever. You will eventually go into labor and then you will be holding your sweet baby in your arms.

Your birth story may not proceed as it says in the textbooks, but it will be your birth story; prodromal labor and all. You are not alone. Other women have survived prodromal labor. Only when you look back at your labor, with your sweet baby in your arms, will you know that it really was the real deal that last time. Until then, just keep breathing! And resting. And relaxing. You’ve got this!  

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