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Prodromal labor, also known as “false labor”, can last weeks before your baby makes his/her debut into the world. There are a myriad of different definitions of what constitutes prodromal labor, which basically means that no one knows exactly what it is… but everyone knows it’s a pain to deal with (literally).

I’m about to have my 4th baby, and I’ve dealt with weeks of prodromal labor with every single one of my (successful) pregnancies. In spite of the fact that I’m a “pro” at prodromal, it has still taken me by surprise this time around. Not because I didn’t expect it, but because it’s been so different from my previous pregnancies!

Just like with “normal” labor, prodromal labor can look totally different from person to person, and pregnancy to pregnancy.

If you’re currently going through prodromal labor, as I am, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way that can help you survive prodromal without losing your mind.

1) Ignore the contractions as long as possible (and definitely don’t time them!).

It’s so tempting to hit “pause” on life when contractions start to kick in, particularly if they’re painful. You grab your phone and open up your contraction timer, growing depressed when you see your once-consistent contractions begin to taper away, potentially hours after the original 5–1–1 has been surpassed.

Don’t fall into that trap. Ignore them as much as possible. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say try to stop them. If it’s real labor, nothing you do will stop them. However, if it’s prodromal, the contractions will end eventually — no matter what you do to keep them going (and you’ll just wear yourself out if you try to make them stay). I learned this the hard way. Learn from my mistakes.

2) Don’t tell anyone you’re having contractions.

There’s nothing worse than having to explain to all your excited family members that you had 6 hours of hard contractions that just… disappeared. Do yourself a favor, and don’t even mention it to begin with. Make sure it’s officially the real deal before getting everyone else excited.

That being said, I would recommend you reach out to at least one friend who has gone through prodromal labor, if you have one. She will know better than to bug you for updates, but she’ll be a good shoulder to cry on (even remotely) as your emotions go on the awful roller coaster created by prodromal.

Speaking of crying…

3) Have a good cry.

There’s nothing wrong with crying, and you’ll feel better if you let out some of the pent-up emotions. Remember, prodromal is hard- physically, emotionally, and mentally. Don’t feel like you have to tough it out simply because it’s not “real” labor yet. Your body is working overtime preparing for your baby’s arrival. That’s nothing to scoff at.

4) Practice Daily Gratefulness.

The end of pregnancy is hard, no matter what. Prodromal just adds to the emotional and physical turbulence, which can leave you miserable and exhausted. It’s easy to get into the habit of complaining because- let’s face it- there’s plenty to complain about.

Prodromal labor aside, there’s the heartburn, the painful pelvis/hips, the “huge, beached-whale” feeling, the painful rib-kicks, lightning crotch, shortness of breath, swelling, exhaustion… it’s no stroll in the park.

But instead of falling into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself (which will often make you more miserable), try keeping a daily gratitude journal.

This 4th child of ours is a rainbow baby, following on the heels of 3 back-to-back miscarriages. I’m incredibly grateful for this baby, no matter how uncomfortable I am at the moment!

5) Keep busy.

Being bored is one of the best ways to lose your mind when experiencing prodromal labor. Don’t fill up your calendar with things that would be hard to cancel, but definitely don’t sit around eating bonbons all day while waiting for labor to start. Meet up with friends for coffee, clean your house, go on a dinner date with your husband, read a good book, or go shopping for last-minute baby-related items (don’t forget to stock up on household necessities, too, like toilet paper, groceries, paper plates, etc.).

6) Get dressed up.

If you’re anything like me, by the end of pregnancy you probably find yourself wearing just about anything you can find that’s remotely comfortable and- most importantly- NOT HOT. Checking to make sure the outfit is pretty doesn’t really cross my mind at this stage of pregnancy.

Okay, let’s be honest… clothing may not even be on the radar at this point. A bra? Let’s just call it what it is: a constrictive boob and rib prison. Clothing? Heat stroke-inducing contraptions (not contractions. I know your mind went there).

In spite of the discomfort, it’s worthwhile getting dolled up on occasion in order to maintain your sanity. No one likes feeling frumpy, especially for long periods of time. The end of pregnancy tends to make women feel shabby anyway, regardless of what they’re wearing. Why not try to combat that as much as possible by getting dressed up nicely, at least a few times, before the baby comes?

7) Focus on making the best of these last few weeks

Remember, in spite of the seemingly-endless final months of pregnancy, you will have your baby in your arms before you know it. It may seem impossible now, but soon you’ll look back and barely remember these weeks of prodromal labor leading up to the birth of your precious baby. So make the most of this time!

If you have older children, make it a priority to spend time with them one-on-one before the baby arrives. If this is your first baby, soak up these last few days alone with your husband before you become a family of three.

Don’t waste these last few weeks reveling in frustration and misery. Prepare yourself- mind, body, and soul- to welcome the newest member of your family into the world. You won’t regret preparing.