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Real Labor and Prodromal Labor Symptoms

Updated on June 22, 2012

Once you've reached the final stages of your pregnancy you may begin to feel anxious about meeting your bundle of joy. The anxiousness may quickly turn into agitation after experiencing several embarrassing false labor mishaps, especially when your family starts to doubt your "labor cries." Whether you are a first time mom or on child number 5, knowing the difference between prodromal labor and real labor is essential to all expecting moms.

Prodromal Labor

Prodromal labor can feel like real labor, but it often lacks: duration, length, and intensity. Women have reported to feel pain for hours at a time at a consistent rate, but the intensity of the contractions do not progress or often progress and then begin to increase after time or change in activity. Often this type of labor pain is diminished by increasing water intake, walking, changing position, and a warm bath. Some women that have persistent prodromal labor have what doctors call an irritable uterus, which makes it even harder to identify real labor from false labor pains. The following is a list of prodromal labor signs:

  1. Irregular braxton hicks contractions that last for a few minutes to a few hours.
  2. The contractions are affected by your activity and tend to disappear after drinking a few glasses of water or walking
  3. Sometime prodromal labor pains come at a certain time everyday and shortly disappear.
  4. Prodromal labor pains do not cause the cervix to continually dilate, but may cause the cervix to soften near the ending weeks of labor.

Real Labor

Most people will tell you "Oh, you will know when your really in labor;" when sometimes that is not the case, especially when you have an irritable uterus. Some women that have experienced persistent prodromal labor opt to stay home when they are unknowingly in real labor due to the mass amount of times they were sent home because they were experiencing false labor pains. Every woman's body is different and reacts differently to childbirth and labor; for example, some women may experience contractions indicating labor, while others water may break without experiencing contractions at all. The following is a list of real labor signs:

  1. Regular contractions come at least every 10 minutes and last for about 30 seconds.
  2. Some women experience a bloody show, which consists of a small amount of blood that can be red, brown, or pink. The bloody show often includes a bit of mucus discharge.
  3. The water breaks; this can be a big gush or a small trickle of water.
  4. Contractions are not affected by movement and increase with length, intensity, and consistency.


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      Sarah 6 years ago

      I've experienced prodromal labor with all four of my babies. Each pregnancy's prodromal episodes mimiced "real" labor in many ways (including signs #1 and #4 on your list). It is not unusual for me to have contractions ten minutes (or less) apart and a minute (or more) long for many hours at a time *many weeks* (as in, 10 or more) before I'm due. Because of the way my body labors, I usually end up discovering *this* time is actually baby-producing labor only a few hours (sometimes less) before the baby is born. It gets pretty tricky to labor this way. I call it the frog-in-the-pot-of-water way to labor. I've also heard it described as the "doorbell ditcher" and the "crying wolf" way to labor. It's very challenging, but I also love it, because by the time the "real" thing happens, relaxation is second nature, since I've had so much practice.