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Understanding the risks associated with prolonged labor

| Apr 13, 2017 | Birth Injuries

Most expectant couples in Queens (particularly those who are about to become first-time parents) likely adopt a “the-worst-is-over” attitude towards the end of a pregnancy. However, one major hurdle remains before the arrival of their babies: the delivery. Any number of complications can occur during the delivery process. It stands to reason, then, that the longer a woman remains in labor, the greater the risk there is for delivery complications to occur.

The American Pregnancy Association defines prolonged labor as any time a woman labors for more than 20 hours (14 hours for first-time mothers). There are several reasons why one’s labor may linger longer than expected. These can include:

  •          A baby being abnormally large.
  •          A baby being in a breech presentation.
  •          A mother’s birth canal or pelvis being too small.
  •          A mother carrying multiple babies.

Researchers have also suggested that psychological factors, such as fear, stress or worry, and can also slow the progress of a delivery, as can certain pain medications (including an epidural).

One might wonder why going through a prolonged delivery presents a risk to mothers and babies if they remain under the supervision of doctors and other clinical personnel during that time. Study information shared by the National Institutes of Health shows that women who experienced prolonged labor are much more likely to require interventions during the process, such as labor augmentation (induction) and epidural administrations. Such cases are also likelier to conclude with an instrument-assisted vaginal delivery or a Caesarean section. When interventions are required during labor, the risk of complications often increases.

In trying to help a mother get through her labor, stress to the baby can be overlooked. Yet issues such as oxygen deprivation, spina bifida or umbilical cord prolapse can also increase during prolonged deliveries. 

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