Think you might be in prodromal labor? I was convinced I was in real labor until I realized that it had been several hours and hadn’t progressed. I did EXACTLY what you’re doing now and searched for “prodromal labor experience” to find out if that was what I was going through.
I’ll let you read it from the beginning!
This is the birth story of my prodromal labor experience with my second baby… see if it sounds anything like what you’re experiencing!
My Prodromal Labor Experience Birth Story
Our first son was born, after induction, in September 2017. We knew we wanted our kids to be close in age, so we got busy, and our second was due April 9th.
Because we had a good experience at the hospital with our first, we decided not to do the birth center this time.
I just had a sneaky feeling that our second boy was going to be early. I took my maternity leave early this time to clean the house, prepare for the birth, and take care of my health.
On April 3rd, I was super excited and tried to just go about my day, but I was a little distracted by my increasing Braxton Hicks contractions. Only, I wasn’t even sure they were Braxton Hicks, because they were starting to feel more painful.
I started to track my contractions, but they were all over the place. They were usually about 3-4 minutes apart, which is approximately how close together the hospital tells you they should be when you come in. Sometimes, they were only 1 minute apart but they were VERY weak! The biggest indicator was that they were sporadic and didn’t go anywhere.
I did some research on Google after about 6 hours of weak contractions and realized that YES, you can actually have a labor that doesn’t progress, and it’s called Prodromal labor.
Some doctors call it different things, like “false labor”, but if you’re having regular, real contractions that don’t progress, you could be in prodromal labor.
My contractions had died out by about 6 in the evening and I was super bummed.
How long after prodromal labor does real labor start?
For those of you who are wondering what prodromal labor is, it’s essentially fake labor. The contractions are real (not Braxton Hicks) but the labor doesn’t progress or go anywhere. I had never heard of prodromal labor before I had it, but I did some googling… I scoured the internet for: “how long after prodromal labor does real labor start?”
There was no good answer, and I didn’t even know if that’s what I was experiencing. I searched for “prodromal labor experiences” but didn’t turn up much that was insightful.
Thankfully, I had an appointment the next morning, and my midwife confirmed that that’s exactly what it was.
My prodromal labor had only lasted about 10 hours.
While I was at my appointment, she also swept my membranes and told me that she would be shocked if I didn’t go into labor before the weekend. She claimed that:
Prodromal labor is a way for our bodies to prepare us for real labor.
Lucky for me, my labor started that night (April 4th) around 7:30pm! I felt both fortunate and terrified that my labor was starting on its own. My first birth had been incredibly controlled and calm… I had my doubts that this one would be like that again.
Boy was I right!
Prior Prodromal Labor = Confusing Contractions
Right from the beginning of my REAL labor, my contractions were 3 minutes apart, so I was quite obviously confused about how to measure when to go to the hospital. They tell you 311, or 3 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for a total of 1 hour before coming to the hospital. The intensity wasn’t there, but the numbers were. I was afraid of not making it to the hospital in time, so we left the house around 9:30, dropped M off with his grandparents, and made it to the hospital a little before 10:30.
Unfortunately, I was only 3.5 centimeters dilated, and the midwife told me that I had to wait until I was 6cm before they would admit me!
She gave me the option of going home and relaxing, or walking around the hospital for 2 hours before I returned. She urged me to go home and take bath.
Labor is Faster with the Second Baby
I am SO glad that I didn’t listen to her and trusted my out instincts!
We walked around the hospital lobby for a grand total of 20 minutes before my contractions were much more painful. When I returned upstairs to be measured again, I was at 5 cm. (I had progressed 1.5 cm in 20 minutes… yes, it was incredibly painful.)
The nurse took 30 minutes to get my IV started (insert irked emoji here), meanwhile, I barely got through about 12 more contractions without screaming. I snapped at him to get the midwife again because things were moving much quicker than I had anticipated. I requested an epidural because it was so late and I was exhausted already, but they told me the anesthesiologist was with an emergency c-section… they would get him as soon as they could.
When I was wheeled to Labor and Delivery, I was actually screaming full out through my contractions—it was literally the only thing I could do to get through the pain. I measured at 8 cm and they told me that the baby would be here before the anesthesiologist would. I couldn’t even get pain medications in my IV drip… they wouldn’t even start working until after he was born.
Your Body is More Powerful Than You Know
Thankfully, I was getting to relax between contractions, so I just breathed and then screamed, a complete victim to my uterus. When they say that the uterus is a strong muscle, they truly mean it. I had not felt that kind of power and strength the first time I birthed a baby because of the epidural… I was completely powerless against anything except to ride the waves and hope that it would be over soon.
The midwife broke my waters (with consent, of course) and told me to push gently to help me open up to the full 10cm. I did that for 2 contractions. She didn’t even measure me again before telling me to push the baby out.
I pushed through 5 contractions… on the last contraction, D got his shoulder stuck for a few seconds that felt like an eternity. The last contraction was by far the most painful and the longest, and the midwife shouted at me to keep pushing once the contraction was over. Finally, the nurses managed to maneuver him and he was born!
D was similar to M in that he also didn’t cry (once again invoking panic among the hospital staff)… I had to quickly shout that I wanted delayed cord clamping, and the midwife backed off once she saw that D was breathing fine.
D didn’t look up at us like M did. Not that I would have been able to see much anyway: besides the fact that my consciousness was still deep in my body, almost like a dream state, after I birthed D, the lights were low and I couldn’t see much.
Thankfully, though, about one hour after birth, D latched on to feed! (And he barely unlatched at all that first night. Phew!)
Final Thoughts on My Prodromal Labor Experience Birth Story
If you’re pregnant and might be experiencing prodromal labor, you’re probably wondering how long after prodromal labor does real labor start. I don’t have a good answer for you, but I do know that I was one of the lucky ones!
My prodromal labor only lasted 10 hours, and labor started about 36 hours after prodromal labor started.
But I’ve read stories of other women’s prodromal labor experiences lasting for days, or starting and stopping for weeks before real labor actually began.
My midwife said that prodromal labor is an indication that your body is just about ready for real labor! So here’s hoping that you go into labor soon!
I will leave you with this embarrassing story—my husband told me (and my parents, when they came to visit) that it was clear that I was a singer from how I screamed… my screaming during each contraction was almost like singing… high and pretty, rather than raw and rough (which is how I was feeling). I’m pretty sure when he shared that, I turned purple… how embarrassing!
The amazing thing was that both myself and D were healthy and happy after the birth, and we were able to go home shortly after and begin our life as a family of four!
My Prodromal Labor Experience with my Second Baby (Birth Story)
**Updated April 15, 2021