Prodromal Labour: Causes, Symptoms & How to Cope

Prodromal Labour – Causes, Signs and How to Cope

The thought of seeing your little gives you the strength to face labour. When you have contractions, you will think that, finally, that the time has come to meet your baby in person. However, if you are having contractions that are far too irregular before you have come to a full-term pregnancy, you will need to hold off on the excitement, as you might be experiencing prodromal labour.

What is Prodromal Labour?

Prodromal labour starts and stops before active labour begins; it is considered to be early points in true labour. It has earned the name ‘false labour’, but that is not true. Prodromal labour can start and stop at the same time each day, and it is easily mistaken for true labour. Hence, expecting mothers rush to the hospital. The word ‘prodromal’ is derived from a Greek word meaning precursor. Hence, this labour can appear hours, weeks, or even days before the actual labour starts. It can even last for a few days to up to a month.

Possible Causes of Prodromal Labour

Researchers have not yet identified the exact cause of prodromal labour. However, many agree that it is mostly because of the body’s way of preparing itself for active labour. There are several things that may cause prodromal labour.

1. Physical Factors

If you have an uneven pelvis or any kind of uterine abnormality, it could lead to prodromal labour.

2. Baby Position

The chance of prodromal labour increases if your baby is in the breech position. The uterus tries to bring the baby into the right position by means of contractions. However, if it doesn’t work, then it stops automatically.

Foetus in the breech position

3. Previous Pregnancies

If you have a history of many previous pregnancies, it could be the reason why the uterus relaxes or changes.

4. Fear and Anxiety

Like in most cases, fear and anxiety can have a negative impact on the way things work. If you have any kind of negative emotion about your pregnancy or for any other reason, it could impact your uterus.

Symptoms of Prodromal Labour

Knowing the symptoms of prodromal labour can help you identify it when it happens. You should bear in mind that each pregnancy and labour is different, and so the rules are not hard and fast. Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Dilated cervix; an examination will reveal if your cervix is dilated.
  • The contractions tend to stop and then start again after moving around.
  • Rather than the contractions coming from back to front, you experience them in the abdomen.
  • The intensity of contractions is weaker in comparison to the contractions occurring during the actual labour.
  • Contractions can be steady and can even increase in intensity, but then they tend to fizzle out rather than progress further.
  • Contractions will not be accompanied by other signs of labour, such as water breaking or bloody show.

When Does Prodromal Labour Start?

Prodromal labour begins in the third trimester, during the last month of pregnancy. This is because the body is preparing itself for the task. Contractions usually happen around the time of the due date but do not result in the birth of your baby.

How Long Does It Last?

The contractions experienced during prodromal labour are fairly regular and are around five to ten minutes apart from one another. Contractions usually last for about a minute.

How is It Different From Braxton-Hicks?

Prodromal labour is often taken to be Braxton-Hicks contractions, but they are not the same. Let us look at some differences between the two:

  • Braxton-Hicks consist of practice contractions and is the body’s way of preparing itself for labour, while prodromal labour could be a sign that your baby is in the wrong position.
  • Braxton-Hicks contractions cause a tight and uncomfortable sensation that does not last very long, nor do they become more intense. For prodromal labour, there is a regular pattern, and the contractions vary and can grow in intensity.
  • The contractions that take place during Braxton-Hicks can be soothed with some food, water, and rest, whereas the contractions resulting from prodromal labour cannot be soothed by these.
  • In prodromal labour, the cervix dilates a little. However, it does not happen during Braxton-Hicks.

Prodromal Labour vs Real Contractions

Prodromal labour is considered to be the early stages of active labour, but it comes and goes. Contractions in prodromal labour occur within a span of five minutes and with a period in which the contractions stop. However, in active labour, contractions don’t stop. As contractions get intense, it results in childbirth. If your cervix has diluted over 4 cm, then the labour will not stop and will continue until birth.

Benefits of Prodromal Pain

It might sound strange, but prodromal pain can help you in the following way:

  • It prepares you to deal with the actual labour pain.
  • Studies have shown that women with prodromal pain also have shorter periods of labour.

A pregnant woman practices breathing exercise

How to Survive Prodromal Labour

A lot of women experience prodromal labour in their pregnancies. However, it can be managed if you know how to. Most experts recommend that you try to rest or keep yourself relaxed as stress and anxiety may lead to prolonged prodromal labour. Here are some steps to help you pull through:

  • If you feel like you need help, then ask for it. You need to rest and take things easy.
  • Use some of the pain-relieving and breathing techniques that you learnt in your childbirth classes in the same way you would during active labour.
  • Keep yourself calm and drink herbal tea, red raspberry leaf tea; drinking these teas can help in toning the uterus so that you experience more effective contractions.
  • Have a warm bath and relax. You can also add some essential oils in water to relax. Lavender, lemon or orange are great choices!
  • Go to bed like you usually would and have no fear.
  • Ask your partner or a trusted friend to give you an oil massage using some essential oils like lavender mixed with a carrier oil such as coconut or jojoba oil.
  • Try acupuncture. Go to a professional, but ensure that the specialist has experience in conducting these treatments for pregnant women.
  • You can also go for pilates. Pilates can help you stretch and relax your body.
  • Sit and sleep in a comfortable position.
  • Distract yourself with something like cleaning, cooking, or organising.
  • Engage in some activities that you love and which also promote movements such as swimming or dancing.
  • Sometimes, medical intervention is needed; so talk to your doctor about taking a medicine that is safe for your baby and will allow you to sleep peacefully for a few hours.
  • Walk or climb stairs as these activities may be able to improve the frequency and strength of the contractions and encourage cervix dilation.


Prodromal labour can cause many people to have so many questions, so here are some of the frequently asked questions on the topic:

1. Does Prodromal Labour Mean Active Labour is Around the Corner?

As prodromal labour can take place any time during the last month of your pregnancy, you might think that the baby is coming soon. However, this is not the case, prodromal labour actually prepares your body for the actual event. There is no way to really know how to turn prodromal labour into active labour, as labour and birth can be very unpredictable and are different for different people.

2. Are Prodromal Contractions Painful?

The contractions experienced during this time will be different for everyone; they can either be mild or strong. Expect to feel pelvic or back pressure and a tightening in the abdomen.

3. Do You Need to Call Your Doctor?

If you have any concerns about the contractions, you should call your doctor as it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you are experiencing false labour or active labour.

Do not feel discouraged if you experience prodromal labour; it is totally normal. It is not a sign of active labour but can help your body prepare for actual labour. Remember to breathe through this time, as the 9 months of waiting to meet your child will end very soon and you’ll find yourself in a new phase of motherhood!

Also Read: Exercises for Easy Labour

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