Perils of prodromal labour

Before becoming pregnant (in fact before I was 40 weeks pregnant!) I had never heard of prodromal or ‘false’ labour before. I just assumed you had your contractions, your water’s broke (in either order) and bam you’re in labour and will welcome your bundle of joy in the next few hours!

How wrong I was…

By the time I was ‘due’ on 7th February 2020 like many other women I was getting fed up with pregnancy and looked for every possible sign that labour was starting. I also experienced ‘prodromal labour’ and it certainly didn’t feel false!

I learned from healthline that prodromal labour can occur any time in the month before childbirth and has the primary symptom of Braxton Hicks contractions which can become regular and feel like the real thing. There’s no doubt about it, this can be very frustrating. I had many sleepless nights in the lead-up to labour due to these contractions and the excitement it gave me (especially once we were at 41 weeks and trying everything to induce labour!)

When will I know it is the real thing?

In the last few days of pregnancy I obsessively googled – Braxton Hicks vs. real labour? I was often disappointed by the results – I never felt I could really see the difference and in my desperation to be in labour I basically convinced myself I was every time anyway!

One way I knew for sure that it was finally the real thing was when the contractions actually woke me up and I couldn’t go back to sleep. They were not unbearable but they hurt like very bad period pains. I was able to bounce on my amazing pregnancy ball and watch ‘Friends’ at 3am to give my husband some more sleep but by 4am I had him up and getting us ready for hospital as by this point the pain was getting intense.

I know it is easier said than done but try to ignore the evil witch that is prodromal labour so long as it is mild – you really will know when the real labour kicks in! (Disclaimer – I take no responsibility for this advice resulting in babies born on bathroom floors!!!)

Did anyone else experience these early labour symptoms in the weeks before childbirth? Did they amount to anything or fade away? I’d love to hear your stories!

From Pregnant to Parent

… what I know now that I didn’t know then

During pregnancy I read all the ‘childbirth’ and ‘pregnancy’ books going and I knew far more about the labour and pushing a baby into the world than how to actually care for it for the next 18 years! When baby did arrive many of my Google searches proved fruitless – there were many things we were experiencing that just weren’t spoken about.

Here are some of the things I have learned about newborn babies that no antenatal class prepared me for.

1. POSTPARTUM BLEEDING

WOW! Sorry but this one deserves capital letters. Perhaps in my naivety or complete focus on delivering a healthy baby, I never contemplated what would be going on for me downstairs following childbirth! I also assumed I’d have the easiest experience ever (not the case after 29 hours in labour and 3 hours of pushing). I went to hospital very unprepared – yes I had the massive maternity pads but the skimpiest knickers to put them on! My stepmum was so horrified when looking through my knicker drawer to bring supplies that she went shopping for some proper briefs for me!

All joking aside, if you’re pregnant now and planning a vaginal delivery please do prepare!

2. Breastfeeding difficulties

I was wholly unprepared for how difficult breastfeeding could be and the pressure I would be under to ‘nail it’ before baby and I were deemed ready to go home. Even though I knew some babies were formula fed from birth I always assumed this was out of choice (no wonder this “choice” is so often wrongly negatively judged). Even our antenatal class had us believing the baby would naturally ‘crawl up’ my tummy immediately after birth and latch on perfectly. This was not the case for us and, having spoken to many other mums, not the case for them either.

Please be prepared that breastfeeding is hard, and just because something is natural does not mean it is easy (just like getting pregnant!).

Fortunately for me I have very good milk supply so I am able to express milk for my baby to take in a bottle. Again, this is not always the case so do not beat yourself up if formula feeding is your only option – all new mums understand – it is not always a choice. A well-fed baby is a happy baby regardless of how!

*A note on expressing* – Another thing I felt unprepared for was how weird and often uncomfortable expressing breast milk could be. In the early days while still in hospital the pumping caused contractions in my uterus which were incredibly uncomfortable (similar to early labour) and increased bleeding down below. I also found, due to the hormones that are stimulated, that I would be sat there pumping and find myself in floods of tears (anyone who knows me knows I am not typically an emotional person at all!)

If you intend to express and are able to get a good supply do persevere through this difficult bit as it will soon become routine and the feeling will be less strange.

3. Worry and anxiety

I was very anxious for most of my pregnancy. The early weeks were tough but I also felt superstitious so I wouldn’t buy anything for the baby or set up the nursery until we had long passed the 24 week ‘viability’ point.
All very normal? Yes. What was different for me is that I was convinced the worrying would stop once baby was born.

Oh how wrong I was! The moment I clapped eyes on my beautiful baby and felt that rush of love I knew I would continue to worry about him for the rest of my life and in a more intense way than I did when he was a fetus.

Worry and mild anxiety such as this is normal but remember to seek help if this is keeping you up at night or preventing you from enjoying your baby – this could be a sign of postnatal anxiety disorder.

4. Baby noises and farts!

Another thing I was totally unprepared for was the amount of noises that babies make! Of course they cry, I knew that much, but the other noises when both awake and asleep came as a surprise to us!

I am fortunate to have a very calm and relatively undemanding baby. He self-soothes brilliantly. He rarely cries but he makes so many other noises that I’m awake with him in the night anyway! In the early days we were googling every gurgle and every choking sound fearing for our baby’s life but over time we have learned that these noises are another normal part of newborn development. Now he is 11 weeks old he also chatters to himself which is super cute.

Look out (or smell out!) for the farts as well. Wow! The sound such a small baby can make is phenomenal. Isaac’s wind sets off his sleeping pal, Percy the Penguin, which is rather funny (if irritating when you’re just drifting off!)

I hope this has helped to quell some myths and gives an honest insight into new motherhood.

Do you have any more experiences to add? Please include your own advice for new mums in the comments section!