Understanding the Effects of Prolonged Labor

When you go to the maternity hospital to have your baby, you’re probably anxious to meet this new addition to your family. If your labor lasts for longer than expected, however, that excitement can turn to stress and concern. Fortunately, even if your labor is prolonged, you don’t have to worry about the danger, because you and your baby will be closely monitored throughout the labor and delivery process. Here is a closer look at prolonged labor, what it could mean for your delivery, and how your maternity doctor will ensure that both you and your baby are protected.

What is prolonged labor?
Although the exact way your maternity hospital defines prolonged labor may differ from another hospital, most experts believe that labor is prolonged if it continues for 18 to 24 hours without birth. If you are having twins, labor is prolonged after 16 hours. You may be at risk for prolonged labor if your baby is very large or is in an abnormal position, the birth canal is too small, or your contractions are weak.

What are the risks?
Prolonged labor is not risky in all situations. In other cases, it can lead to low oxygen levels for your baby, an abnormal heartbeat in your baby, uterine infection, and abnormal substances in your amniotic fluid. For mothers, prolonged labor can be distressing, which can also cause excess stress on the baby.

How is prolonged labor treated?
The doctors and nurses at your maternity hospital will closely monitor your progress through your labor and your baby to ensure he or she is not in distress. If your baby is in distress, your doctor will perform a C-section right away. You may also receive a C-section of the size of your baby is delaying your labor. If your baby is fine and you need to have more contractions, you may receive a medication called Pitocin, which speeds contractions up. As OBGYN Dr. Linda Katz explains here, prolonged labor is never something that should worry a mother, as doctors will monitor it very closely.

The maternity hospital at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center is dedicated to making your labor and delivery a positive experience for your whole family. For a referral to one of our specialists, please call (818) 676-4321.

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