We’ve all heard stories about mums spending hours in labour during childbirth. It’s one of the longest, toughest, and most exhausting aspects of the process. However, there are a few cases where women have given birth in record time.
And more often than not, such cases have happened in the unlikeliest places. Sometimes on the way to the hospital and sometimes at home, because there was no time and baby was ready to come out.
This is called precipitate labour. It usually happens quickly and sometimes can catch the expecting mother off-guard. Which is why it’s imperative that expecting mums should know all about precipitous birth and how to prepare for it.
What Is Precipitous Labour?
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The labour duration is decided based on several factors including the baby’s position, the use of an epidural, and if the mother had a previous childbirth experience.
A typical labour period would last anywhere between 3 and 30 hours after regular contractions start. This would be the case for first-time deliveries. For a second delivery, the period goes down between three hours and 15 hours. A precipitous birth is when the baby is delivered within three hours after the contractions start.
On average, a woman’s cervix dilates and contractions get stronger over a period of four to eight hours during active labour.
However, a woman’s cervix will rapidly dilate during precipitous labour, fastening the delivery process.
How Do You Identify Precipitous Labour?
Labour can be extremely unpredictable and there are no set ways to identify if the woman will have a precipitous birth. Nevertheless, you will feel mild, irregular contractions during the early stages of labour, which will become stronger and more consistent quickly.
That’s a sign that the cervix is starting to dilate and will become thinner and shorter, preparing for the birth of your baby.
In precipitate labour, your contraction will suddenly speed up and become intense before a lot of time has elapsed. It’s almost like fast-forwarding hours of labour pain. At the same time, you might not get breaks between contractions. You will also increasingly feel the need to bear down and push.
This is a warning sign, and you need to hurry up and get to a hospital.
What Do You Do If You Are In Precipitous Labour?
If you are in precipitous labour, you won’t have a lot of time to think. The contractions will be fast, the pain will be severe, and you couldn’t be farther from a medical centre. It’s important that you stay alert and make the best out of the situation.
It would be best to call your healthcare provider and apprise them of the situation. Your doctor will be in a better position to guide you on what to do next based on when your contractions started and how far apart they are at the moment.
Who Is At Risk For Precipitate Labour?
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A number of factors can lead to a precipitous birth.
- For some women, a history of precipitous labour could be a contributing factor during their next delivery.
- Women with chronic high blood pressure and fertility treatments could also witness an increased risk of a precipitous labour.
- Even the induction of labour with prostaglandin E2, a medication that dilates the cervix intrauterine growth restriction, could fasten the birthing process.
- In some cases, the placenta detaches from the uterus earlier than expected. This is placental abruption and could pose a great risk to the mother and the baby.
- Lastly, a small-sized baby weighing less than 2500 grams, could also be the reason for precipitate labour.
Can Precipitous Labour Cause Complications?
As concerning as may sound, precipitous labour actually fastens the birthing process and could see the baby pushed out in a matter of minutes. In the best-case scenario, you have made it to the hospital and the healthcare providers are in complete control of the situation, resulting in a normal delivery.
However, the biggest problem would be not making it to a hospital in time.
- This opens room for the delivery to happen in a non-sterile environment that will put the baby’s life at risk.
- There are also chances that the baby might breathe in some of the amniotic fluid in this situation.
Other problems that mothers do face due to precipitous labour include the absence of an epidural or pain management that you were probably counting on during the childbirth. Some new mothers also experience heavy bleeding or haemorrhage from the vagina or uterus.
There’s also tearing or lacerations to the cervix or vaginal tissues lacerations to the perineum due to precipitous labour. The mother could go into shock after giving birth.
That said, the potential risk factors and complications are minuscule.
Be Ready With ‘Plan B’
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There’s no formulated way to know if you will have a precipitous birth. However, you and your partner can prepare for the same.
Make sure to speak to your doctor about the potential risk and what to do in case such a situation arises. Doctors too will monitor your condition to check if you’re at increased risk of precipitous labour as you progress.
It’s a good option to prepare a ‘Plan B’ with your partner that includes finding a medical centre closer to you, alternative doctors, and emergency phone numbers to call, all at your disposal.
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