Friday, February 3, 2012

My Sis, the Prodromal Laborer

My li'l sis, Deborah, just wrote a post on prodromal labor.  Last April, she gave birth to her third baby via this labor pattern.  I would love to link to or post the birth story when she makes it available (but I understand how it is--I still haven't published Ian's birth story from 19 months ago), but for now, this will have to suffice:

Deborah and I are of the same mind when it comes to discussing prodromal labor: that all-too-often, trying to fit what it is (or can be) into a chart or concise definition becomes too restrictive and not all that helpful.  This is the biggest reason that, for all my wanting to educate about the fact that such a labor pattern does exist, this blog has yet to truly "define" it in terms that many birthy sites have--I find those definitions leave one thinking too much in-the-box, which we tend to do anyway when it comes to what is "normal" in birth.  (Not to mention that my own experiences with this pattern often oppose what is detailed in the charts.)

Unfortunately, I have found that the people who are most close-minded in relation to the prodromal labor pattern are birth workers (be it doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, or birth educators) and women who have given birth before.  In fact, in some cases, women who have several (even many) children tend to be the most dismissive about the possibility of prodromal labor, sometimes considering a woman's own experience with it suspect (as in, what could be wrong with your perception to make you think this can happen?).  It is as if whatever was their own experience is all that can possibly be out there.

The most open-minded people I've encountered on this subject are (not surprisingly) women who have experienced the pattern themselves and women who have never before given birth.  I've even seen people go from open-minded about the possibility before birth to completely narrow-minded after experiencing a more textbook birth.  (It is on the close-minded people that I sometimes wish prodromal labor, I admit.)  When it does occur, it can be very vindicating. :)


  1. I experience days of contractions that surely feel like labor...have done this for the last 4 babies (I've had 7 so far). I have contractions and they are painful and I can time them. My test usually is sleep. If, at any point, I can sleep for more than a few hours, I stay home. Usually, if I am in progressing labor I have the blood and it doesn't give me that 2-3 hour break. I believe it's effective labor, just very slow. I am glad I wait it out and don't go in to the hospital as I fear they would try to augment.

  2. I tried to find a place to contact you, but didn't see one. :)

    I just had to tell you - YOU'RE RIGHT! I experienced Prodromal Labor with both of my pregnancies (only 21 weeks into my current pregnancy, so nothing yet) and it was torture. It went on for WEEKS with my first daughter. Luckily, my water broke at home so I knew the time had come. With my 2nd daughter, I wasn't so lucky. I had been having contractions, on and off, at no pattern, for about 4 weeks. I got checked and was 3cm 60% at 34 weeks. The contractions continued in their usual fashion. I was feeling tired, run down, exhausted, anxious -- you name it. After an entire night of the same old stuff, nothing ever getting into a pattern (that I truly based everything on!) I decided that SOMETHING was going on down there and maybe I just didn't labor "normally." I called my doctor as the contractions were moving into my back. I was in pain, but I guess due to the weeks of contractions before that, it wasn't unbearable or alarming. My doctor is a family friend and came by the house to check on me. He informed me that I was 8cm and it was time to go!

    It was such a rush and a mad dash that it's kind of hard to remember it all. We live a good 30 minutes from town and we weren't in the hospital 30 minutes before 2 very light pushes brought my little girl into the world.

    I'm pregnant now with #3 - a little boy - and I know without a doubt this time, that I will not wait on a pattern to my contractions or wait on "normal" labor. I know my body better than any textbook definition of "labor" and if I feel like something is going on, it probably is.

    Just thought I'd share my story with you! It's definitely not "false labor" or anything insinuating it's not real or productive. :)

  3. Kacie, thanks so much for your story! I love when others share their experiences. Little by little, maybe we who labor this way (and our care providers, child-birth educators and doulas) will begin to acknowledge that it happens and that it can be normal.

    Hold onto your hat if you don't plan to stop with #3: I am currently 25 weeks pregnant with my fifth, and two weeks ago marked my first four(plus)-hour bout (in this pregnancy) of minute-long, 2 min-apart contractions. (With my fourth pregnancy, those kind of contractions came at 20 weeks.)

    I'd love to hear how this labor/birth goes for you, if you'd like to share. Great for you to know your body so well. I still haven't quite figured mine out yet, though it is much better than the first time.

  4. Thank you so much for the stories and perspective. I am in prodromal labor right now and planning for a home vbac. It has been so tough because people say oh well that's not real labor or kind of dismiss it like "youll know it when it's here". I know it is here. I just feel so much pressure for it to's like I don't even want to tell people.

    I was up all night with consistent contractions and tons of bloody show... Then this morning it all but stopped. Knowing I am not a freak is really helpful. I am not alone.

  5. Anonymous, I hope you're hanging in there if prodromal labor is still happening. I'm having bouts of it myself (38 weeks today) and even with my fifth, I feel a little silly calling to give my helpers a heads up that I may be needing them soon. But, I've decided it's either that, or not give them enough notice, and we've tried that, had a baby accidentally unassisted, and (though it was a fabulous birth) do not want to do that again. Oh, to find the happy medium between crying wolf and giving birth unassisted. . . hmmm.

    Be encouraged that all that prodromal labor is not for nothing. Your body is working!

  6. Sarah - Not sure if you've given birth yet...hopefully for your sake you have! I commented back in April on this post. Well, here I sit at 35w1d doing the prodromal labor thing all over again. Last night was my first time to call my doctor (family friend) for a false alarm in 3 pregnancies. I had contractions for about 6 hours. They were 5 min apart almost the entire time, lasting 45 sec - 1 min. I was *sure* it was time because I was in a LOT of pain with each contraction. I had DD2 at 35w0d and that's exactly when my doctor's office doesn't stop labor so I figured we'd be having a baby and of course I was praying that he'd be healthy.

    Well, my doctor got to the house and lo and behold...I was 2cm, 0%. Agony. Ha. I was a fingertip last week at my appt (started checks early to watch for PTL) and 0% so I had made some progress in dilation but none in effacement.

    Anyway - I'm really fine (and somewhat relieved) that last night was a false alarm. I want him to be healthy and each extra day in my womb is better for him! BUT - It's about 11pm here and they are starting back up again so I'm preparing for another night of no sleep. It's exhausting and emotionally draining.

    I hope things are going well for you and that you're holding your sweet baby in your arms by now. I'm right there with your above comment on crying wolf and having an unassisted birth on accident in regards to calling family and caregivers. It's such a hard thing to balance! :) I'm sure I'll be putting my birth story (whenever that may be...) on my blog so please check it every now and then and we'll see how long the PL lasts for me this time!

  7. Thanks for coming back, Kacie! Yes, my bouts are over as of July 16th, when my baby girl arrived. The birth was great, and both midwives made it!!! It was the birth I've always wanted in many ways. I only have one regret: that we didn't get it on video. My husband was there for me in ways I don't want to forget.

    I'm off to see if you've had your little one! Thanks so much for commenting again!

  8. I don't know if this is prodromal or not, but with my last baby (#2) I started having irregular contractions the evening of her due date. 8, 7, 4, 4, 7, 3, 8, 3, 3, 3, ...minutes apart, lasting a minute. Went to the birthing center at 1030 pm. Sent home at 1145pm when they stalled at 7 minutes apart; 4 cm. By the time we were home 20 minutes later they were 3 minutes apart again. I took some castor oil then rested an hour. I got up to use the toilet & timed contractions that were under 2 minutes apart for an hour. Went back to the birthing center at 245. I was still at 4 cm. I immediately entered transition & she was born at 335am. Besides the irregular contraction pattern, I don't experience pain until transition. I am pregnant with #3 & concerned about an unassisted birth if it is any faster. The scary part is I am high risk because of crazy rare blood antibodies against the baby this time. I'm betting no home birth midwife will touch me.
    Jennifer in Chattanooga