Pregnancy & Birth

Tips for coping with prodromal labor or “false” labor

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This post is part of a blog series, 31 Days of Preparing for VBAC: my story of purposeful pregnancy, beautiful trial of labor after cesarean, and the healing repeat cesarean birth of my second child. To view all of the posts in this series, check out the landing page. To receive all posts in the series by email, subscribe here. This post contains tips for prodromal labor.

I’m currently 34 weeks and 2 days. I’ve been having Braxton Hicks contractions since 10 weeks pregnant. But now, I’m pretty sure that last night I experienced true prodromal labor for the first time this pregnancy.

I had several Braxton Hicks per hour all evening. I went to bed at 10:30, but remained awake for a while with the contractions and a racing heart rate. (I had a latte last night -bad idea!- so I figured that was the cause.) I’m not sure what time I fell asleep, but awoke having to pee every hour at least with contractions that felt like BH in intensity, but had an added component of period-like crampy feeling.

Between 2AM and 3AM, they started coming faster. Same intensity, same crampy feeling. My uterus would slowly tighten, hold for all of 5-10 seconds, then release. This began to repeat every 2-3 minutes. At this point, I could not get back to sleep! I considered calling my doula at this point, but I knew what she would tell me to do. So I got up, ate, and got in an epsom salt bath while watching Netflix on my phone. 

20 minutes later, I was still feeling the BH, but the crampy feeling had gone away. I got out of the tub, made some chamomile tea, and finished my show; things died down enough that I could ignore what was happening. I went back to bed between 4 and 4:30 and slept til 6 (when Ezra woke up), then dozed from 6-7.

Needless to say, I was exhausted and sore come morning. Baby had been moving well. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I didn’t really want to over-analyze it. I have walked every day this week (total of about 9 miles) so maybe I just overdid it. I’m planning on taking it easier over the weekend, drink, rest, and really focus on positioning exercises.

My chiropractor told me this morning that she felt changes in my round ligaments indicative of changes in positioning – the beginning of Little Brother’s journey into the world!

I know things can go on like this for weeks, as it did with Ezra starting around 36 weeks. But I’m was more than a little thrown off that it’s starting earlier this pregnancy. I’m still trying to remind myself that this doesn’t necessarily mean an early delivery!!

I reached out to my “stand in the gap” ladies and they were full of wonderful advice. This comment was my favorite:

I had the same thing happen earlier and earlier with each pregnancy. I know that it can play a real game with your mind, and despite telling yourself that you will most likely go past your “due date”, there is a part of your mind that thinks “no way I’m actually gonna make it.” The hardest part, but most important part, is to not over analyze, because we know that if your body is ready to go into labor, it will and if it’s not, it won’t. You are doing amazing.

Also remember, God is in control and He knows the desire of your heart and He wants to give you those desires! Sink into that fact, let it comfort you and resonate in your soul. Pray continuously and reach out to the prayer warriors that you know to stand in the gap and pray for you and your birth plan. I cannot tell you enough how important I think this is! You are doing great! Keep it up!

So I spent the morning drinking herbal pregnancy tea and watching Netflix as a restful distraction. I felt tired and introspective. Quietly excited that something was happening, but keeping the excitement in check as I tried to get my head wrapped around going through a lot of this in the coming weeks.


At my last prenatal meeting with my doula, she said that while we think that true labor takes off quickly in a day or so, the whole process of labor “takes about a month.”

Prodromal labor, false labor, pre-labor, Braxton Hicks…whatever you want to call it. It’s all labor. It’s your body preparing to have the baby. It’s your baby getting into a good position. It’s a long process, but it’s ALL productive.


A few tips for surviving prodromal or false labor

A few tips for surviving prodromal labor:

1. Give it two hours.

My doula told me that a good indicator of true progress toward active labor is a change in frequency and intensity over a two hour time-frame.

So if you wake up at 2am and are having a few contractions, get up and pee, then do what you can to go back to sleep. If you are still awake and having more contractions in two hours, that’s the time to get up and take a shower or bath, sit on your birth ball, or whatever.

Practice the art of labor denial. Tell yourself you aren’t in labor, take deep breaths, and try to go back to sleep! This helps conserve your precious energy and keeps you from wondering, “Is this it?”

2. Open your pelvis

For sleeping, lie on your side and add an extra pillow or two between your legs. Even dozing in and out of sleep between contractions, I felt like this helped them be productive.

I often tried to lie in an “exaggerated SIMS position” (as seen here on Miles Circuit), although I found it uncomfortable to tuck my arm back as recommended. I had some of my strongest prodromal contractions in this position. I also used this position while laboring in the hospital with the epidural.

3. Keep the lights out

I have not found confirmed research on this, so it might be completely untrue. But I have read in a few articles that turning lights on discourages oxytocin release in early labor. For more on this, read this article, Words of Wisdom: Keep the “Sensations” of Early Labor a “Secret”

4. Don’t get discouraged when your contractions peter out

This is hard, but remember, you are making progress. Each contraction (“real” or not) is bringing you closer to your baby.


Nap and lie down whenever you can. Prodromal labor is EXHAUSTING and you need to conserve as much energy as you can for the real thing.

When I was going through the last weeks of my pregnancy and facing contractions every night, during the day I tried to act as though I was on modified bedrest. One morning I took a 45 minute nap at 7:45 AM while Ezra listened to a story tape in his room. I also napped every afternoon and tried to lie down multiple times throughout the day (even if it was just for 10 minutes to check Facebook on my phone).

I bought easy meal options like Spaghettios, frozen pizzas, instant oatmeal, and plenty of other less-than-healthy things for the boys to eat during these last weeks. It was far more important for me to get rest when I could than to worry about a week or two of sub-par nutrition.

6. Move

Labor is all about working WITH your baby. Prelabor is no different. Your baby is making a slow journey and he or she needs your help. When you aren’t resting, work on fetal positioning exercises (gentle yoga poses, lunges, squats, hip circles on your birth ball) and gentle walking or swimming (if you have access to a pool).

7. Listen to your body

When you are going through this, it can be hard to know whether you need to be resting or moving with baby. My doula told me to work with baby during contractions. This was difficult because I found that my contractions were a lot stronger and more noticeable when I was lying down at night, and not so noticeable during the day.

Mostly, I listened to my body, constantly checking in with what I was feeling. If I felt like lying down or sleeping, I tried to do that if at all possible. I tried to do SOME exercise each day, even if it was just a walk around the block, although other days I walked two miles because I felt like baby had been working hard and that he needed more movement than I had been giving him.

8. Distract yourself

Ask a girlfriend to meet you for lunch. Watch Netflix. Take your family out on a date night. It is the hardest thing to NOT think about your baby coming (especially when you are contracting a lot), but any distraction (even an hour) will help carry you through the longest days and nights.

9. Eat and drink. Repeat. Repeat.

This could turn into true labor at any time. Keep high protein snacks in the house (nuts, cheese, oatmeal) and drink lots of fluids. My favorites during that last week were Strawberries and Creme instant oatmeal and herbal pregnancy tea. I also drank a lot of water with Natural Calm Magnesium in it (this helps to keep blood pressure down and your body relaxed).

prodromal labor drinking

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