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women holding her back during prodromal labor contraction

The Best Prodromal Labor Advice For Moms Who Want To Get Their Labor Moving

As we start talking about prodromal labor, I want to share this analogy with you that will help you understand exactly what prodromal labor is.

Do you remember the first time you watched the last Lord of the Rings movie? It’s pretty good. I will say as a nerdy doula, I kinda loved it. Except for one thing. It never ends. Just when you think it’s about to wrap up and be over, another scene starts and you just keep going. On. And on. And on. And on. 

This is kind of what prodromal labor is like. Prodromal labor is when labor starts, or at least you think it does, but it doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere. It can be confusing, tiring and flat out frustrating. 

Just when you think you’re making progress, this IS going somewhere, this has to be going somewhere, you have an unexpected lull, you get checked and haven’t made any increases in dilation and you aren’t even admitted to the hospital yet. It is like labor, except for it is going on and on and on and on. And doesn’t seem to be doing anything. 

This guide is to help you figure out if you are experiencing prodromal labor and what you can do about it. 

Clear Signs Your Stuck In Prodromal Labor

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You may be experiencing prodromal labor if:

  • If your contractions are more regular or intense than Braxton hicks contractions (simple tightening of the uterus) 
  • You are having contractions but they are not increasing in intensity 
  • You are having contractions but they remain spaced out 
  • You are having contractions that begin to form a pattern but fizzle out

Does this sound familiar? If you aren’t sure how to answer these questions – take a look at our guide for what contractions feel like and how to time contractions.

If you’re reading this article in preparation of an upcoming birth, we’d recommend you check out our birth class for simple strategies to prevent prodromal labor in the first place.

You may be surprised that nutrition, mobility, baby positioning and other factors can all affect how your body labors. And though you can’t control everything, you can definitely make a few small changes that will likely keep you out of prodromal labor in the first place.

Women Often Have These Questions About Prodromal Labor:

Does Prodromal Labor Hurt?

Yes. Prodromal labor can hurt, but it doesn’t always. Some women are able to sleep through these contractions and some women can’t. Just like labor can feel different to every woman, so can prodromal labor. Some of the best advice about this type of labor is to ignore it as long as you can. Sleep when it’s time to sleep. Eat when you usually eat and walk if you’re comfortable walking. Once you can’t ignore or distract yourself from contractions, pull out your labor coping skills. Until then, do your best to go about your day and just pause and breathe when you are having a contraction.

Does Prodromal Labor Hurt The Baby? 

Not at all. Your baby is safe during contractions. 

When Does Prodromal Labor Turn Into Real Labor? 

Real labor is counted when active labor begins. This is not until you are at 6 cm. By the time you are here, you are past early labor and contracting regularly with contractions that last a full minute and come every 4 or 5 minutes. These contractions take all of your focus. This is when it is medically appropriate to begin measuring labor. 

However, if you’re not measuring from a medical perspective, real labor is typically measured by when labor feels like real labor to you. This is when It takes energy and focus to deal with contractions. They may or may not be intense at this point. Early labor officially begins when you have contractions that are increasing in intensity and frequency and last about 30 to 45 seconds. You will likely not dilate with prodromal labor until it has clearly entered the early labor category. That doesn’t mean the contractions aren’t doing anything.

Check out the article what does a contraction feel like? to get a feel for the stages of labor and what contractions are like in each stage.

Can I Have A Bloody Show During Prodromal Labor? 

Yes! Prodromal labor simply means the first signs of labor. 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 experiencing Prodromal labor, you are very close to real labor! Congratulations! You are going to meet your baby soon! Relax and enjoy the last bit of being pregnant.

These are all questions about Prodromal labor that should help you feel good about where you are. You made it to labor. Contractions have started! Good job! 

Strategies for Dealing With Prodromal Labor To Prevent Becoming An Exaughsted Mother

“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.” These words from Peter Pan are my wish for your labor – that you know where you are going and time passes quickly. Find something to focus on that you enjoy during this time and time will pass quicker than you expect. Prodromal labor is hard, It is frustrating. But if you avoid getting stuck mentally, and you keep your energy replenished, you will get through it.

What Should You Do If You Experience Prodromal Labor At Night? 

If you are experiencing Prodromal labor at night you need to ask yourself a few things. When was the last time you ate? Have you had enough fluid? What is your energy level? 

One of the best things you can do is to try to get more rest. But not until you’ve had a snack (a banana with peanut butter is a great option!) and something to drink. Either water, a cup of herbal tea or an electrolyte drink are all great choices.

If your water hasn’t broken, then get in the bath and relax. Add ⅓ cup of Epsom salt to get your magnesium levels up. And if you like, add a drop of something calming such as lavender, geranium, frankinscence or vetiver essential oils. Spend a minute journaling. And then go to bed. 

Why Does Prodromal Labor Happen At Night? 

Prodromal labor can happen at night for two reasons. One,

1. Your body can get some serious work done while you sleep. So try to sleep.

2. If you are dehydrated or lacking nutrients, your body might go in and out of false labor. So nourish yourself well.

What Should You Do If You Experience Prodromal Labor During The Day?

If you are experiencing Prodromal you need to focus on these things. Eat. Drink. Move. Rest. Cycle through them at a comfortable pace. 


You can eat whatever you want in early labor. You need the energy a good meal provides. If there is a meal you want, eat it! If food doesn’t sound good to you, then small nibbles are okay too.

If you are planning snacks to have on hand for early labor I recommend these:

  • Nuts
  • Dried fruits
  • A milkshake
  • Oatmeal
  • Scrambled eggs with cheese
  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Peanut butter cookies

If you’re in prodromal labor it’s absolutely okay to treat yourself and indulge. You may or may not feel like you can eat a lot. Listen to your body, and eat appropriately. Choose small meals or a few bites over skipping eating entirely. Also, eat real meals if you can. Stop eating when you feel full or averse to it. 


There are better drinks than water for labor, such as:

  • Prenatal tea with coconut milk and honey
  • Electrolyte drinks 
  • Magnesium drinks
  • Orange juice
  • Coconut water
  • Lemonade
  • Bone broth (which you can often even have in the hospital on a clear liquids diet)

These will help you keep your energy levels up as you hydrate. As labor progresses and you don’t want to eat anymore, these nutrients and calories become increasingly important.


Don’t wear yourself out, but do enjoy a stroll. There are a couple of ways you can help baby move into a better position while you are walking.

  1. The first is to do the runners walk. Place your fingertips behind your ears. Notice how this immediately changes your posture and pelvis? This provides more room for the baby to get into a favorable position.  Walk this way for about 15 minutes.
  2. The second way to use walking to help baby change positions is curb walking. If you have an available curb, walk with one foot up on the curb and one down to create a tilting motion as you walk. The extra up and down is good for giving baby more options if places to move. 

Helping your baby to move into a more favorable position is one of the best things you can do to help your labor move forward if it is stuck at any point!


If you can take a brief nap or a few brief naps, do it! You want to be well rested and take time to gather your energy back up. If you can’t sleep, rest watching a show while leaning forward on a birth ball or couch. Think child’s pose but with arms and chest resting on the birth ball, with your weight forward. 

To summarize what you should do if you’re experiencing prodromal labor during the day rotate between Eat. Drink. Move. Rest.

These steps should help you prevent labor exhaustion so that you do not get worn out during birth.

How To Speed Up Prodromal Labor 

What if you are doing Eat. Drink. Sleep. Rest. and there are no changes? 

It you do this for a while and there are no changes, there are a few other things you can try. 

My favorite trick is to add an inversion before you walk and rest. 

Here is a powerful story that shows exactly why you really don’t want to skip the inversion even if you do not want to do it in labor. 

To do an inversion you need your hips wide and high. The best way is to gently, and with support, kneel on the edge of a couch. Carefully lower your hands to the floor and rest your forearms on the ground. Then shift your weight forward to rest your weight on your arms, letting your head move freely. In the story above, mom was doing this from a cat-cow position. The greater the inversion you can manage the better.

To Summarize How I Help Moms Move Their Babies Into Better Positioning

Here is the 1,2,3 of changing baby’s position during labor to move things forward.

  1. Inversion
  2. Runners Walk
  3. Rest on your side with the bottom leg straight and the top leg curled towards your belly, supported with a pillow.

Repeat if needed. 

One More Effective Trick To Move Baby’s Position

You can also try these rebozo skills. To shift the baby into a better position.

Are There Other Natural Induction Techniques That Might Help With Prodromal Labor?

Movement is one really powerful way to support your body in getting out of prodromal labor. As I’ve gained experience as a doula, I’ve learned that change makes change. And changing the type of movement matters a lot.

That’s why my childbirth course has MANY different suggestions for movements in active labor.

But, there are other things that can help a long slow labor as well. One potential resource you can use at home, after a consult with your doctor or midwife is nipple stimulation.

One study found that 80% of midwives surveyed reported that based on their experience, they found nipple stimulation an effective way to induce or augment labor.

If you’re considering nipple stimulation to help your labor progress, please consult with your care provider first to make sure you have the appropriate instructions and monitoring. You can also learn more about it in our guide the nipple stimulation for inducing labor here.

To Summarize The Best Prodromal Labor Advice

Remember how Tinkerbelle says “All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust”?These are the ingredients of birth as well. Birth takes a whole lot of faith and trust.

Prodromal labor sometimes lasts from 24 to 72 hours. Even if you do not see the results of your prodromal labor in immediate dilation, know that your body is working and accomplishing something with these contractions. If it feels like you are not making progress, remember your body can do this and is doing this.

Your cervix is moving forward. Your cervix is ripening. Your cervix is effacing. All these things happen and are not measured in the same way as dilation.

If you’re in the middle of prodromal labor, focus on taking excellent care of yourself and trust that birth works. You’ve got this.