Variations of Pregnancy Labor

going into labor

We have all witnessed the movies where the pregnant woman is in labor and rushed into the hospital. Within five minutes she breathes, pushes, screams and the baby comes out. The reality is labor is different for every mother and being informed about the types of labor prior to giving birth can help the mother during the birthing process.

Prodromal Labor

In a prodromal labor, the early phase of labor is prolonged with contractions that do not increase in intensity. Prodromal labor can tire you out and use up the energy you will need for active labor and delivery. Try alternating activities such as walking or showering with periods of rest to conserve your energy. While resting, you can also drink fluids, watch a movie, or listen to music until you progress to active labor. Your physician or midwife may suggest prescribing medication to help you sleep, which can cause the contractions to become stronger and your labor to progress.

Back Labor

Back Labor refers to labor in which much of the pain or discomfort is felt in your back. Sometimes, this is caused by the baby being in a posterior position (facing your abdomen).

How is Back Labor Different?

With back labor, the onset of labor may be felt completely in your back and may create some confusion about whether signs of labor have begun. Feeling your abdomen for “hardening or tightening” when experiencing rhythmic back discomfort may offer some indication as to whether or not this is really labor. Furthermore, there may be residual back pain between contractions. The pushing stage may be longer due to the extra effort needed to rotate the baby to an anterior position. Some babies may not rotate and may deliver in the posterior position.

Prolonged Labor

In a prolonged labor, the entire labor progresses at a rate that is slower than average. A prolonged labor may be due to many factors such as size or position of the baby or having an epidural very early in labor. According to Jonathan Waters, MD, chief of anesthesiology at Magee-Womens Hospital, in Pittsburgh,” epidurals slow labor by about forty minutes, on average. In some cases, the anesthesia can actually speed labor once a mother relaxes through the pain”. Relax as much as possible to avoid tiring yourself. Change positions frequently and use gravity-assisted positions (such as standing or squatting) during a contraction. Walking and relaxing in the shower or tub may be helpful. Every woman and her labor are unique. If your progress is slower than anticipated, try not to be discouraged. Recognize that this is the natural progression for your particular labor. Relax and allow yourself to work with each contraction one at a time.

Precipitous Labor

A precipitous labor progresses very rapidly. Call your physician or midwife if your contraction suddenly occurs one right after the other or if the intensity of the contractions is not manageable. If birth appears imminent, please make sure to Call 911 or the emergency number for your area.

Augmented Labor

Occasionally, your labor may not progress even though you have had frequent contractions. If your bag of water has not broken, your physician or midwife may attempt (stimulate) your labor by breaking the bag of water. If this is not effective in stimulating labor, you may be given intravenous Pitocin.


The onset of labor can be exhilarating and frightening. It is very important to listen to the signals of your body to prepare you for delivery. Having information about the various labors you may encounter will help you, and your health care provider.

Please consult your physician and/or healthcare provider for your individual circumstances.

Sources: Pregnancy: Labor and Delivery Your Birth Plan 6 Things to Expect from Labor and Delivery

Lieberman, Adrienne. Easing Back Pain: The Complete Guide to a More Comfortable and Rewarding Birth Boston: The Harvard Common Press.