12 Common Labor Complications
It seems that most mothers you talk to had some kind of complication arise during their labor. But birth is the most natural thing the body can do, so then why has it become so complicated? Educate yourself about true complications and things that may actually be normal - then you will feel more confident in the delivery room.
If you missed the first 10 common terms used to label possible complications of labor, read about them HERE.
12 Common Complications of LaborReverse Dilation: This does not actually exist. Your cervix will not close during labor, it will only open. There are a few reasons that you may hear this term:
- Being checked by two different people with different finger sizes.
- The bag of waters was bulging against the cervix, but then breaks.
- The baby changes position.
Arrested Labor: This defines a labor that consists of contractions that completely stop. Fear, exhaustion, location change, and excitement are all possible reasons for this to occur. True labor will start again, but it may take time for the body to adapt to the changes it experienced. Some birth teams will recommend Pitocin to restart or induce the labor, but there is a reason that the body has stalled. Take the time to respect your labor.
False Labor: Braxton-Hicks contractions at the end of pregnancy can intensify and lead some mothers to believe they are true labor. Again, some birth teams will suggest or offer to induce labor through medical interventions, but this is not needed. Braxton-Hicks are the body’s way to warm up and prepare for birth. They strengthen the uterus. False labor is nothing to be embarrassed about. Go home!
NAP (Natural Alignment Plateau): A very normal part of labor, NAP is when labor contractions continue but dilation, effacement, and station remain without change for a period of time. The body is still working, but there is little to show for it. This is the time that most women become tired and elect for medical interventions like epidurals and Pitocin. There are several reasons NAP occurs, and you can read more about them HERE.
FTP (Failure to Progress): This term relates to NAP in most labors, but it basically describes a labor that is not progressing at the doctor’s desired pace. Dilation may not happen fast enough or the baby may not drop low enough, and a c-section will be recommended. The truth is that there are many possible reasons this is happening and it should not be cause to intervene. There are extreme situations when medical help is needed, but overall, the body is and will continue to progress on its own timeline. Do not rush things. Read more about FTP HERE.
Extremely Painful Labor: Some doctors may refer to an intense labor as extremely painful and recommend medical interventions to help the mother relax. Before allowing medical interventions to take place, try laboring in different positions and other relaxation techniques. If there is a true reason for the pain (other than a normal labor), medical help could be needed.
CPD (Cephalopelvic Disproportion): This is a true reason for a c-section; however, the likelihood of CPD being the case is quite rare. CPD cannot be known until the 2nd phase of labor occurs: pushing. CPD is when the baby’s head is larger than the mother’s pelvic outlet. Once the mother has been in 2nd stage for hours and an ultrasound has been done to determine CPD is the case, a cesarean section should be performed. Again, this is extremely rare and you should try changing positions multiple times before giving in to this diagnosis.
Meconium Staining: Meconium is the first bowel movement from the baby. It is not uncommon for it to happen while in utero or during labor (Learn more about meconium staining HERE). Meconium staining is when the water breaks and meconium is visible. Some doctors still believe this is a sign of fetal distress, as it can be inhaled by the baby and cause severe complications. Again, it is common and not reason for medical intervention unless true sign of fetal distress is displayed.
Multiple Births: It is sad, but our society views giving birth to more than one baby at a time as a ‘complication.’ The body is able to naturally birth twins or triplets (or more) just as it is able to birth a singleton. Being pregnant with multiples is not reason to immediately elect a surgical birth. It is also not reason to select a date for an induction. While a c-section may be the end result due to lack of options, fight for the opportunity to go into labor naturally so you know your babies were ready to be born and not taken too early.
Prolapsed Cord: Another reason for immediate intervention. A prolapsed cord means that the umbilical cord is showing before baby in labor. This is very dangerous to baby.
Placenta Previa: The placenta cannot be birthed before the baby. Previa is when the placenta is either partially or fully blocking the cervix. This is normally caught and then monitored by ultrasound. But a C-section is needed if the placenta does not shift.
Fetal Distress: This term is terrifying to every parent. Of course a baby in true distress needs any and every intervention, but it is important to diagnose the true complication. Low blood or oxygen levels may be determined by a bad fetal heart tone, but the heartrate may be improved by a simple change in mother’s position. A healthy baby’s heartrate drops during contractions but recover afterward.
Occasionally, true complications do arise. Most of the time, these situations have a healthy outcome with small interventions. Thankfully, we live in a time where medical support can be life-altering. This being said, education is the best form of help in any labor. Knowing your options and possible outcomes will help you feel confident and calm.