This week’s letter to baby will have to be edited into a nice image later on. If you read on you’ll find out why, relatively quickly. Oh, and it’s not because the baby was born yet…

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Dear Baby,

I only half-expected you to be born by this point, since the average pregnancy lasts closer to 41 weeks than 40. But I didn’t expect to be in labor for the last week. Starting Monday night, I have had a lot of contractions. They started out so close together and powerful, and lasted all night! Your dad and I thought for sure you would be born on Tuesday, but it is Saturday now and you are still not here. It has been a long, exhausting week, but we have been working hard to stay rested, hydrated, and fed. I guess you’re already letting us know you have your own schedule in mind, and your own way of doing things. Anytime you’re ready, we look forward to meeting our spunky little girl.

Love,

Mama

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Evidently extended early labor, or prodromal labor is more common than I ever knew. Actually, I had only heard about it a few times and thought it was pretty rare. But since on Tuesday morning, we announced to our families and on facebook that our little girl would be arriving soon… and then she didn’t… I’ve been hearing from a LOT of friends who actually experienced the same thing with their pregnancies and labors. One friend told me she labored for 3 weeks before giving birth! Usually (based on my friends’ stories) it’s closer to a week though. The good news is that because it prepares the body slowly, once active labor really hits, it can be very quick and smooth compared to “regular” labor situations.

I think that it’s a shame the baby websites and books don’t have more information about prodromal labor, because what happens to a LOT of women is that they have the “active labor” signs like I did — hard, close-together contractions that last hours and hours — and go into the hospital, only to be turned away because they’re only dilated 1cm or so. They’re told it’s “false labor” or “practice labor” which I think are insulting and incorrect terms! There is nothing false about what is going on in my body right now (and has been for the last week), and I know changes are occurring on the inside, so it’s not “practice” either. But I think a lot of women may be embarrassed or ashamed by “crying wolf” and never tell anyone.

And that’s why I’m sharing this with you all. I feel like we need to become more of a “village” again. If we don’t share our human experiences, these everyday events become shrouded in mystery.

Here’s how mine has progressed so far:

Monday afternoon/evening: Started having contractions, but they weren’t anything to write home about.

Monday, midnight: Contractions were regular, intense, time-able. They started in my lower back and went around to my uterus, then lingered in my back for a while. They were about 5 minutes apart, sometimes closer, and 1-2 minutes long. I found great comfort by using some of the techniques I learned in Bradley class, like low vocalizations, slow abdominal breathing, and of course, my husband’s attentive massage (he is wonderful)! This went on basically all night. My doula suggested that we try to sleep or rest in between, but that turned out to be pretty impossible.

Tuesday morning: Contractions slowed once we started moving around, and became less painful for my back. During the day, we took short naps, went on walks, and focused on energy conservation for the “big event.”

Tuesday night: We went to bed around midnight, and contractions increased in frequency and intensity again, to the same level as Monday night. Again, we tried to sleep in between them,  and I tried to breathe through them and let my husband sleep, but I had to wake him up for several difficult contractions. After only a few hours, we moved into the living room once we gave up on sleep.

Wednesday: Again, once we were up and about, contractions slowed and became less painful in my back. We went on a couple early morning walks, and contractions were very regular during the walks, but not as painful as at night. Still focused on conserving energy, during the day, we rested, then ran some errands (to get in some air-conditioned daytime walks) and had an early dinner.

Wednesday night: We decided to try a new strategy, and went to bed around 8pm. I woke up around midnight again with frequent strong contractions, and since we had rested for several hours, we were prepared to stay up all night. We went on several walks, and halfway through our first one, it felt like the baby “dropped” to a lower position in my pelvis. When that happened, my back pain was hugely relieved, and contractions were more uterus-focused.

Thursday — Thursday night: We were feeling refreshed from our new nocturnal sleeping pattern, and decided to try a repeat of Wednesday’s strategy. Through the day we napped, ate, and drank… we had another early dinner, then met with our new doula, since our original doula planned to go on vacation Friday afternoon. Again, we went to bed at 8pm and woke up around midnight.

Friday: We basically walked all night, coming back to the house for bathroom breaks, snacks, and rests. Then we took naps during the day, and hung out together in evening.

Friday night — Saturday: We went to bed around 11:30 after a small glass of wine (since we are beginning to get anxious, and our doulas both recommended a little bit of help with relaxing), woke up at 6 (guess the wine worked), had breakfast, went to see a movie and walk around a mall for a change of pace. Now it’s 11pm and we’re getting ready for another glass of wine and bed. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Mama says, “Don’t make me come in there, young lady!”

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The entire week, my contractions haven’t stopped. The way “they” say you can tell the difference between Braxton-Hicks contractions and real ones is that BH contractions will go away if you change position, drink some water, change activity level, take a nap, etc. Real ones don’t stop. I’ve stayed very hydrated, rested, had tons of activity/position changes, and my contractions might slow sometimes to 15-30 minutes apart, but they haven’t stopped altogether, and often I have several hours of 5-minute-apart contractions that last a minute or more.

If you are experiencing a long early labor, please don’t despair! You are NOT alone. Some things that might help:

  • Know that changes are happening. It’s not “useless” or “fake.” Your uterus is moving the baby down into position, and dilation may be slowly happening (you may notice that you’re losing bits of mucus plug — this is a sign of dilation).
  • Stay rested. Prodromal labor can last for a couple days to a few weeks. If you try to stay awake the whole time, you will be exhausted when the baby decides to make its appearance. As hard as it may be, take the chances you have to take cat naps. Even if you only manage an hour or two of sleep at a time, it will do a LOT to keep you going.
  • Stay hydrated and well-fed. I have been hungrier than ever this week, and thirstier too. Some of the signs of early labor are hunger and thirst, so you probably won’t be able to ignore meeting these needs. Keep your water bottle nearby and full, and have plenty of healthy snacks on hand.
  • Labor augmentation activities like walking, yoga-ball sitting, squatting, dancing, sex, etc, can be done to keep things moving along, but don’t just focus on these. If you do, you’ll become mentally and emotionally exhausted pretty quickly, even if you are getting physical rest.
  • Distract yourself in between labor augmentation activities and rest. This means run some errands, go see a movie, watch some bad TV, do some more laundry or cleaning, work on a craft project… anything to take your mind off of the clock.
  • Be patient. The baby won’t stay in there forever. Really. Trust that your body knows what it’s doing. Women have been going into labor on their own for all of history, without castor oil, membrane stripping, or pitocin. If you had wanted to go into labor naturally, a prolonged early labor doesn’t mean it’s time to change your mind.

I’m staying in good spirits even though this week has been incredibly exhausting. I owe that in no small part to my amazing husband, who has been here every step of the way. He has matched his sleep schedule to mine, given me countless back/shoulder massages, gone on so many walks with me, kept my water bottle full when I’ve forgotten, and told me numerous times how much he loves me. He’s also kept the mood light by saying things like, “Come on out now baby. Then you and I can play, instead of you just playing with Mommy… ‘s organs.”

We’re so ready for the big event, but in the meantime, this period has been an incredible time for us to strengthen the wonderful bond we already share, and enjoy our time together before we’re a family of three.

57 Comments on 41 Weeks – Welcome to Prodromal Labor

  1. Rachel says:

    I am going through this right now, and this post was so encouraging. Thank you!

  2. Vanni says:

    So glad to find I’m the only one! This is what I’ve been experiencing since yesterday night: strong contractions with 7 min apart 1 min long for a couple of hours then slowed down to 15 min frequency 1 min long through the day. I had mucus plug dropped during this period so guess dilation is coming slowly. I’ll wait to tomorrow then make another hospital trip – though they might send me back for various ‘too early’ reasons!

  3. Stephanie says:

    I am so glad that I found this! You have no idea how much peace this has given me! I’ll be 41 weeks in 2 days and I feel like I’ve been in labor for well over a week. I am THAT woman that’s too embarrassed to phone in. Every time I do, I get talked to like I’m an idiot or that I shouldn’t have even called them! I wish I could explain all the things I feel but good grief, I swear this kid is about to pop out and the doctors just don’t believe me. It’s dumb. Sorry-had to vent.

  4. Kimberly says:

    Hey, I know this is old but I’m going through the same thing right now. My due date was wrong and I’m 41 weeks and 10 days today according to the due date the doctor gave me. I grow impatient everyday about giving birth to my son. And I’m always hearing everyone say why won’t you go ahead and get induced? And I’m always like I wanna do this on my own and go into labor naturally without medicine pushing me to go into labor. Then its bad enough that I have family and friends calling me and my mother about if I have had my son yet or if I’ve gotten induced. It gets really annoying, but I’ve been walking a whole lot and eating pineapples. Idk what else to do to go into labor naturally. I’m gonna continue to try other remedies though and see what happens then. Thank you for this article because I really needed to see this. Btw, I hear the contractions are much worse and closer together when they give you the pitocin to jumpstart your contractions anyways.

  5. Melissa says:

    I know many have said this before, but thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been in prodromal labor for almost three weeks now and I was starting to feel totally crazy. No one seems to understand whats happening. It’s so discouraging. I really needed to see that I’m not alone.

  6. Jess says:

    I know this was written years ago but it was uplifting to read. I’m pregnant with my 3rd child, and 3rd boy. Going on day 21 of this pre-labor/prodromal labor fun. Much longer period of it than I had with my 1st two kiddos.

    • Alissa says:

      I am also thankful to read this as I work through day 9 of prodromal labor. My contractions don’t stop, they only space out, usually for a few hours at night so I guess it could be far worse!!I did 4-5 days with baby #1 and 14 days with baby #2. I was hoping this wouldn’t happen with baby #3, but c’est la vie, I guess.

  7. Debbie Didreckson says:

    I know you wrote this years ago, but I can’t thank you enough for writing it. I am in day 5 of prodromal labor and am SO thankful for your candor and humor about the situation. I am so frustrated with the whole thing, but after reading your post, I have a renewed sense of hope. Bless you! I hope all is well with you and your little girl!

    • dom says:

      Yes I am in the same boat… Since monday i am having a mixture of BH and stronger contractions that can be every 10 minutes for an hour…and go away. I have been a bit sad the past few days but reading this makes me feel better. I wanted to thank you for sharing!! 🙂

  8. […] two weeks of prodromal labor, with several episodes of hours and hours of really regular, strong, long […]

  9. […] }); }ShareLast week I wrote about having been in Prodromal Labor for basically the entire week. It hasn’t stopped. Each day and night, I have many, many contractions. The weird thing is I […]

  10. Asrap says:

    I agree that there is insufficient information out there on prodromal labor. I was just diagnosed and it's amazing that the pregnancy books and websites don't mention it or barely touch upon it and our childbirth and parenting trainer did not say anything about it. It's only by googling sites like this that I am able to obtain more information.

  11. Susankewn says:

    AHHHH !!! Now THIS is good …. you are making cookies !!! Have you got that 'must clean everything' syndrome too ?? I know a lot of women who seem to go into cleaning overdrive, cooking too … and then … BING ! there is baby! Perhaps … she is gearing up at last ?? Or perhaps she just likes cookies……! lol!!

  12. lil_earthmomma says:

    lil_earthmomma here to share my experience with prodermal labor. With my first baby I had prodermal labor for 6 days. It was exhausing emotionally and physically and left me pretty worn out for the day of delivery. Bubble baths, bouncing on an exercise ball and a ton of walking helped to cope.

    My midwife finally had mercy on me and stripped my membranes, as I was totally effaced and thinned out. 15 hours later, my son entered the world.

    *hugs* glad you have support and are hangin' in there!

  13. […] }); }ShareYes, I’m still pregnant, still in Prodromal Labor… consistent contractions all day and night, but that’s just the “problem.” They’re not […]

  14. Casper4always says:

    Thank you for sharing. I am expecting myself and hadn't heard of this before! Amazing the things we don't hear about. Good luck and I hope you get your little surprise soon!!

  15. Susankewn says:

    Yes… prodromal labour is a ….. well you know !!! I had it with BOTH mine… as did my daughter with hers.. You are being very good… hydrating and resting! RESTING is the key .. as I was totally exhausted by the time I had mine. Especially the second. Hang in there…. just sleep as much as possible … and lets hope that Raspberry Leaf Tea works wonders and you have a nice, simple quick labour!

  16. JoyfulAbode says:

    Blair, thank you for sharing! I'm glad it went smoothly when it was time. 🙂 That seems to be the general consensus, though there are exceptions of course. I hope it's smooth and quick for me too! That's awesome about the adrenaline too… sometimes if it's been a while since my last nap I worry that if I went into labor RIGHT NOW I'd be too tired. At that point I usually take another nap though. haha.

    And you are SO RIGHT that the hospitals will try to keep some ladies who go in too early… and some women will basically check themselves into the hospital and say “I'm frustrated with this and I'm not leaving without a baby!” and end up with an induction even if it's not what they originally wanted. It really is unfortunate!

    I hope she's here soon too. 🙂 Something like only 3% of babies will go past 42 weeks though, so … if she's in the 97% she'll be here within the week.

  17. JoyfulAbode says:

    Yes! A lot of times, natural birth professionals have a good local network and know each other and can recommend people.

    My Bradley childbirth instructor recommended my doula to me. 🙂 So glad she did, too!

    And midwives can really vary… some are so institutionalized or “cautious” they are almost like a typical OB, and some OBs are totally okay with and supportive of natural birth, so… interviews are more important than the “title” of the professional.

  18. JoyfulAbode says:

    GOOD FOR YOU for sticking to your guns! I wouldn't want my water broken either & put on the clock for a c-section, you know?
    Your patience paid off. 🙂 I'm glad you had the birth you wanted!
    Waiting is definitely hard, but impatience can backfire.
    I hope you find an awesome midwife for your next baby!

  19. Andrea says:

    I am so happy that you are going for the more natural route. I never liked the idea of doctors rushing the mom and baby through labor. Anyways, hang in there! Also, I'm jealous of you for having such a great husband!

  20. Amber says:

    I know, I shouldnt be sad, lol. Just that there wont be any more babies from this mama and its, well, its kinda tough to watch all the 'firsts' for the 'last' time. 🙁

    Totally honest, you look great. Cant wait to hear about labor/delivery/new baby! Your whole world in gonna change VERY soon, more then you could ever expect! I still remember the moment everything hit me in the hospital. I couldnt sleep that night, all I could do was stare at this little boy, all wrapped up in his cocoon, completely in awe that he was mine to keep. Just amazing.

    Will be checking in – daily!!! 😀

  21. JoyfulAbode says:

    Blair, thank you for sharing! I'm glad it went smoothly when it was time. 🙂 That seems to be the general consensus, though there are exceptions of course. I hope it's smooth and quick for me too! That's awesome about the adrenaline too… sometimes if it's been a while since my last nap I worry that if I went into labor RIGHT NOW I'd be too tired. At that point I usually take another nap though. haha.

    And you are SO RIGHT that the hospitals will try to keep some ladies who go in too early… and some women will basically check themselves into the hospital and say “I'm frustrated with this and I'm not leaving without a baby!” and end up with an induction even if it's not what they originally wanted. It really is unfortunate!

    I hope she's here soon too. 🙂 Something like only 3% of babies will go past 42 weeks though, so … if she's in the 97% she'll be here within the week.

  22. JoyfulAbode says:

    Blair, thank you for sharing! I'm glad it went smoothly when it was time. 🙂 That seems to be the general consensus, though there are exceptions of course. I hope it's smooth and quick for me too! That's awesome about the adrenaline too… sometimes if it's been a while since my last nap I worry that if I went into labor RIGHT NOW I'd be too tired. At that point I usually take another nap though. haha.

    And you are SO RIGHT that the hospitals will try to keep some ladies who go in too early… and some women will basically check themselves into the hospital and say “I'm frustrated with this and I'm not leaving without a baby!” and end up with an induction even if it's not what they originally wanted. It really is unfortunate!

    I hope she's here soon too. 🙂 Something like only 3% of babies will go past 42 weeks though, so … if she's in the 97% she'll be here within the week.

  23. Amber says:

    Where are you located? Have you searched online for any? Also if you talk to your OB/GYN or others in your area sometimes they know about midwifes that you might not have been able to find online.

    I found my midwife by searching online and finding a doula service in my area. Thankfully she recommended my midwife who specialized in water birth – exactly what I was looking for. Also search for birthing centers instead of hospitals. They tend to have midwives present.

    Hope that helps!

  24. JoyfulAbode says:

    Yes! A lot of times, natural birth professionals have a good local network and know each other and can recommend people.

    My Bradley childbirth instructor recommended my doula to me. 🙂 So glad she did, too!

    And midwives can really vary… some are so institutionalized or “cautious” they are almost like a typical OB, and some OBs are totally okay with and supportive of natural birth, so… interviews are more important than the “title” of the professional.

  25. leelersinc says:

    I was having contractions but when the doctor said to come in to get checked, they slowed down. Since I was 4 cm dilated they told me I'm staying at the hospital, and the doctor would come break my water. I wanted a natural birth (even in a hospital) and didn't want the doctor to break my water, because he said he'd start pitocin after about an hour or two. By this time, my contractions almost stopped. After a long day of starving in the hospital, we signed a form “Against Medical Advice” and left the hospital because the baby just wasn't ready to come out yet and I wasn't ready to have the doctor force her out! Three days later I went into real labor and she came all on her own without my water breaking or any of the doctor's medical “help”! I learned the baby will come when the time is right! I'm proud of you for hanging in there and letting the baby come when it's the right time! Waiting was the hardest part for me…
    I really want to find a midwife when I have my second baby, but I don't think there are any around here…

  26. mommy says:

    We are just waiting – patiently – making sure my phone is right by the bed in case you or T text or call… You are going to be an amazing mother and we are looking forward to seeing this sweet baby soon.

  27. Blair Glass says:

    I think I said this on Twitter, but I had prodromal labor for a week and when it was my birthing time it went very smoothly. I have heard a lot of anecdotes from women who had lots of prodromal labor and then a quick birth. I hope it is the same for you! I feared I would be tired since I had only been sleeping 2-3 hours a night for about a week, but adrenaline kicked in when it needed to and I had plenty of energy.

    I can't help but think re: going to the hospital early–what's worse than being turned away for “false labor” would be if L&D kept the woman there! I hear about that happening all the time. They admit the woman at 1-2 centimeters, hook her up to pit, and it all goes downhill from there. It's tragic. We really do have to arm ourselves with knowledge and support these days. Good for you for reaching out to other moms with prodromal labor.

    Hope your sweet girl is here soon!

  28. JoyfulAbode says:

    We're hanging in there fine! 🙂 It's definitely been a LONG journey so far but we're doing well I think. And you're welcome – I had no idea either.

  29. JoyfulAbode says:

    You're welcome, and I totally agree. I think there's so much we just don't talk about and in a lot of cases, that needs to change.

  30. JoyfulAbode says:

    You're welcome. 🙂 And I know you're right. I can't wait to hold her!

  31. JoyfulAbode says:

    Aww, crawling is such a big step! How exciting! Don't be sad. 🙂

    And thank you so much. You are totally sweet.

  32. JoyfulAbode says:

    And I am SO excited about that!

  33. JoyfulAbode says:

    haha that's awesome.

  34. Jonathan says:

    well, crap. forgot my husband was signed into twitter and not me. it's @thegrumbles, not a dude who experienced prodromal labor.

  35. Jonathan says:

    you're doing so great! i experienced a long prodromal labor as well so you definitely aren't alone.

  36. Kat says:

    Before to long you will be holding your little girl.

  37. Ashley @ Bride on a Budget says:

    Great info! Thanks for sharing.

    You'll be in active labor soon enough and your little baby girl will be here.

  38. Christephi says:

    Thanks for putting this info out there! There is so much “they” don't tell us and its up to women to talk about these things to other women. It won't be long till you're holding your sweet girl, and you'll be amazed how quickly the unpleasant parts fade into distant memories. Blessings!

  39. Amber says:

    I know, I shouldnt be sad, lol. Just that there wont be any more babies from this mama and its, well, its kinda tough to watch all the 'firsts' for the 'last' time. 🙁

    Totally honest, you look great. Cant wait to hear about labor/delivery/new baby! Your whole world in gonna change VERY soon, more then you could ever expect! I still remember the moment everything hit me in the hospital. I couldnt sleep that night, all I could do was stare at this little boy, all wrapped up in his cocoon, completely in awe that he was mine to keep. Just amazing.

    Will be checking in – daily!!! 😀

  40. Amber says:

    I know, I shouldnt be sad, lol. Just that there wont be any more babies from this mama and its, well, its kinda tough to watch all the 'firsts' for the 'last' time. 🙁

    Totally honest, you look great. Cant wait to hear about labor/delivery/new baby! Your whole world in gonna change VERY soon, more then you could ever expect! I still remember the moment everything hit me in the hospital. I couldnt sleep that night, all I could do was stare at this little boy, all wrapped up in his cocoon, completely in awe that he was mine to keep. Just amazing.

    Will be checking in – daily!!! 😀

  41. Amber says:

    Where are you located? Have you searched online for any? Also if you talk to your OB/GYN or others in your area sometimes they know about midwifes that you might not have been able to find online.

    I found my midwife by searching online and finding a doula service in my area. Thankfully she recommended my midwife who specialized in water birth – exactly what I was looking for. Also search for birthing centers instead of hospitals. They tend to have midwives present.

    Hope that helps!

  42. JoyfulAbode says:

    We're hanging in there fine! 🙂 It's definitely been a LONG journey so far but we're doing well I think. And you're welcome – I had no idea either.

  43. JoyfulAbode says:

    We're hanging in there fine! 🙂 It's definitely been a LONG journey so far but we're doing well I think. And you're welcome – I had no idea either.

  44. JoyfulAbode says:

    We're hanging in there fine! 🙂 It's definitely been a LONG journey so far but we're doing well I think. And you're welcome – I had no idea either.

  45. JoyfulAbode says:

    You're welcome, and I totally agree. I think there's so much we just don't talk about and in a lot of cases, that needs to change.

  46. JoyfulAbode says:

    You're welcome, and I totally agree. I think there's so much we just don't talk about and in a lot of cases, that needs to change.

  47. JoyfulAbode says:

    You're welcome. 🙂 And I know you're right. I can't wait to hold her!

  48. JoyfulAbode says:

    You're welcome. 🙂 And I know you're right. I can't wait to hold her!

  49. JoyfulAbode says:

    Aww, crawling is such a big step! How exciting! Don't be sad. 🙂

    And thank you so much. You are totally sweet.

  50. JoyfulAbode says:

    Aww, crawling is such a big step! How exciting! Don't be sad. 🙂

    And thank you so much. You are totally sweet.

  51. JoyfulAbode says:

    And I am SO excited about that!

  52. Jonathan says:

    well, crap. forgot my husband was signed into twitter and not me. it's @thegrumbles, not a dude who experienced prodromal labor.

  53. Amber says:

    I have been checking everyday! So much suspense.

    On a side note, my youngest just learned how to crawl yesterday. My baby is growing up! Makes me so sad.

    It really goes by fast, enjoy every minute. *hugs*

    PS. You still look beautiful, I cant get over how great you look pregnant!

  54. Jessica Nelson says:

    awww — hang in there! Thanks for describing this! I never knew about it either.

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