What Are the Different Kinds of Labor?

We often hear people talk about different kinds or variations of labor, but many people never fully understand what that means. We get it, it can be confusing! If you want to better understand the stages of labor, let’s talk about it.

What Is Labor?

Labor is defined as the physiological process where periodic contractions after the period of viability (24 weeks) bring about cervical dilation that eventually leads to the delivery of the baby, membranes, and the placenta.

Labor is divided into 3 different stages. We break down the first stage here for a little more in-depth look at early, active, and transition stages. These stages can vary in duration for every woman, making labor a different experience for everyone. Throughout the different stages of labor, it is also classified into four different types that women can experience. Those are prodromal labor, back labor, prolonged labor, and precipitous labor. 


Four types of labor

Prodromal Labor

Prodromal labor is when a woman is having continuous contractions as one does at the onset of labor, but these contractions are not accompanied by cervical change. Meaning, there is no cervical effacement or dilation occurring with these contractions.

This type of labor can be very uncomfortable for the mothers and can often cause them distress. When this happens, we recommend therapeutic rest. After therapeutic rest, women go home and rest. They can then wake up with lessened or resolved contractions or they can have a more effective contraction pattern that progresses to true labor for them.


Back Labor

Back labor is a term used to define the back pain some mothers feel during labor. It can be due to the baby’s position (if they’re positioned back to back or if they’re positioned sideways) but it can be due to other reasons as well.

Here at Charleston Birth Place, we have plenty of methods and tricks that can help with this pain so mothers can have more comfortable labor.

These methods include:

  • Ability to move around during the initial stages of labor
  • Sterile water injections
  • Labor tub, which helps take the pressure off the back
  • Nitrous oxide for pain control
  • TENS unit


Prolonged Labor

Prolonged labor is when labor fails to progress at a rate that it’s usually expected to and takes longer. Labor is considered prolonged if it takes more than 20 hours for first-time mothers and more than 14 hours for mothers that have had a baby before.

Prolonged labor can be due to ineffective contractions, maternal exhaustion, etc. However, it is more common in first-time mothers since their bodies haven’t gone through labor before and are learning what to do.

It can severely exhaust mothers mentally and physically, so we focus on hydrating the mother and helping them cope with the mental exhaustion. We encourage them to rest as much as possible before the active stage begins.


Precipitous Labor

Precipitous labor is extremely fast labor and delivery, within 3 hours or so after the start of labor. It can be a very eventful birth for both the mother and us, but we are always prepared for everything! Checking in at the birth center takes no time at all since you are preregistered and expected by our care team. 

If you want to enroll in our care, head here to get started