Difference Between Prodromal & Real Labor: Causes, Tips to Handle Kicks & Pain

Tasneem Sariya

Created by Tasneem Sariya
Updated on Jun 09, 2021

Difference Between Prodromal Real Labor Causes Tips to Handle Kicks Pain
Reviewed by Expert panel

Prodromal labor are the contractions that an expectant mother experiences, however, they usually start and stop and do not result in the delivery of the baby.

You may have experienced them yourself or heard from others, how sometimes the contractions seem very real and the mother is rushed to the hospital, only to be sent back saying that it was a false alarm. Though prodromal labor is also often called false labor, many doctors and experts agree that it is not exactly an apt substitute name. Though the contractions do not lead to delivery, prodromal labor pain is very real and palpable. In fact, many experienced mothers too sometimes are unable to know the difference between prodromal and real labor.

What is Prodromal Labor?

Contractions that regularly come and go during the last stage of pregnancy but do not result in birth of the baby are ways of the body preparing for it. Prodromal labor may last for a few hours, days, weeks and also a month. Yes! It could be rather painful, both physically and emotionally but the only silver lining is that it indicates that the birth of your little one is not too far away and it will be soon that you will be holding the bundle of joy wrapped in your arms.

Unlike real labor, prodromal labor starts and stops usually at the same time of day. They are also often confused with Braxton Hicks contractions however; this comparison is inaccurate as well. The Braxton Hicks contractions are probably experienced by all expectant mothers and are also called practice contractions. These can be uncomfortable and make one feel tight, but these do not last for much long neither are very intense in pain. Also, it is easier to alleviate the unease felt from the Braxton Hicks contractions, by eating, relaxing or exercising. However, it is much more difficult to be at ease when the prodromal labor kicks in, since its pain and contractions are akin to real labor.

Differences Between Real and Prodromal Labor

Real labor is continuous and the contractions increase in frequency and intensity with passage of time. In case, of prodromal labor the contractions may also increase in frequency and intensity but ultimately fizzle or die out.

Other signs of real labor which are absent in prodromal labor include the breaking of water bag and dilatation of the cervix to more than 4 cm. 

Causes of Prodromal labor

Almost all experts agree that prodromal labor is a way for the body to prepare for the real or actual delivery but there are no conclusive reasons for its cause. However, there are a few conditions that are believed to be the potential cause of prodromal labor.

  • Baby’s position – Many doctors believe that prodromal labor could be nature’s way of trying to position the baby into an optimum posture for delivery. This is often seen to be true for example of mother’s whose baby is in breech position, where the uterus tries with contractions to move the baby into the best birth position.
  • Stress or anxiety – Some believe that women who are more stressed and anxious over their pregnancy usually have prodromal labor.
  • Abnormality – Either pelvic or uterine abnormality or aberrations are also cited as reasons for prodromal labor.

How To Handle The Prodromal Labor Phase?

It is definitely not easy for a would - be mother to go through ‘false’ labor and the experience can be quite taxing and draining. However, some tips that can help you see through this phase are:

  • Try and do things that keep you relaxed, like taking a shower, massage, yoga, position change and so on.
  • Divert your mind into doing other things, such as, indulging in shopping, preparing the baby’s room and so on.
  • Keep yourself well hydrated and eat and sleep well to avoid further irritation and fatigue.

Finally, let your baby take his or her own time to make it out into the world. Do not blame yourself for not being able to tell the difference between real and prodromal labor and pamper yourself as it takes courage to bear the pain and yet move on. You will get there and you will be holding the apple of eyes soon. Until then, hang on in the best way you can.


This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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