Prolonged Labour

What is Prolonged Labour?

Prolonged labour is a labouring problem faced by some women during childbirth that lasts for longer than usual. Prolonged labour can be caused by numerous factors, including an overly large baby, incorrect angles of the baby while in the birthing canal or if a woman's pelvis is too small to accommodate the baby. When the labour is prolonged it can become more difficult for the woman to push the baby through the birth canal and can cause distress for both the mother and child.

Causes of Prolonged Labour

Prolonged labour is often caused by physical factors such as an abnormally large baby or the mother having a small pelvis. Other causes of prolonged labour include:

  • Malposition of the baby
  • Incorrectly positioned placenta
  • Weak uterine contractions or a slow labour pattern
  • Insufficient blood supply to the baby
  • Fetus that remain in the incorrect position
  • Allergies or sensitivities

Risk Factors of Prolonged Labour

There are certain risk factors which may lead to a prolonged labour. Women who are pregnant for the first time have a higher chance of prolonged labour, as do women who have previously had a C-section. Women over the age of 35 are also more likely to experience a prolonged labour as are women who are carrying multiple babies. Women who have a family history of prolonged labour are also more susceptible to having a prolonged labour.

Complications of Prolonged Labour

During a prolonged labour, the baby can become distressed due to decreased oxygen supply. This can lead to fetal distress, reduced fetal movements and, in extreme cases, a lack of movement in the baby. Prolonged labour can also lead to weakened uterine contractions, increased possibility of infection, postpartum haemorrhaging and more scarring of the cervix.

Treatment for Prolonged Labour

The treatment for prolonged labour will depend on the individual case. For most women, doctors will attempt to reduce the amount of time the labour takes, but if this fails then a C-section may be the only option. Other treatments options include giving medications to speed up the process, breaking the bag of waters and providing oxytocin intravenously or through the vagina.

Prevention of Prolonged Labour

Although it may not always be possible to prevent prolonged labour, some strategies can help reduce the risk. Women should make sure they are eating healthily, exercising regularly, and receiving regular medical check-ups and prenatal care. Additionally, women should be aware of the signs and symptoms of prolonged labour, and seek medical attention if they experience any of these.