Can a Prolonged Labor Increase the Chance of Birth Injury?
The longer a mother struggles in labor, the greater the risk of injuries to her and her child.
Labor is something expectant mothers typically approach with a mixture of excitement and dread. While you are eager to see your newborn son or daughter, you may have doubts about the discomfort you are likely to experience during the birthing process and the amount of time it may take. Labors that are prolonged can increase the risk of serious birth injuries, so we trust doctors and attending staff members to take the necessary precautions. Unfortunately, there are too many cases in which they fail to do so. To protect yourself and your baby, it is important to be aware of the risks.
The Dangers of Prolonged Labor
There is no set time for delivering a child. Some labor proceeds quickly and with little trouble, while other labor takes long hours to complete and requires medical interventions.The most important consideration during this time is to carefully monitor the mother and the infant’s progress through the birth canal.
When doctors or midwives fail to do so and allow labor to progress too long, serious labor and delivery complications can occur as a result. These can include:
- Deprivation of oxygen to the infant;
- Problems with blood flow;
- Increased risk of infection for both mother and infant;
- Increased risk of maternal hemorrhages;
- Use of extraction tools, such as forceps, which can injure the infant;
- Permanent birth injuries cerebral palsy, brachial plexus, and seizure disorders.
Laboring longer than 12-14 hours increases the risks for the above injuries. Doctors and attending staff need to be alert for signs that a labor is taking too long to progress. These include maternal exhaustion and dehydration, decrease in contractions due to muscle fatigue, abnormal contraction patterns, increased pain, and abnormal mother or infant heart rates.
What Causes a Prolonged Labor?
Delays in delivery and prolonged labors are common and can happen for a variety of reasons. These include:
- The mother’s health: Problems with the mother’s general health and issues such as poor muscle tone or obesity make prolonged labor more likely to happen.
- Fetal position: If the baby is in anything other than a headfirst position when labor commences, it can cause dangerous delays in delivery.
- Weak or uneven contractions: Labor is often prolonged when contractions are irregular or not strong enough to push the baby through the birth canal.
- Oversized infants and delayed labor: If the infant is oversized or the pregnancy is allowed to go on beyond 40 weeks, there is a greater chance for prolonged delivery.
When Birth Injuries Result from Prolonged Labor
Mothers can suffer major impacts due to prolonged labor. In addition to potentially life-threatening physical symptoms, it can also cause post-traumatic stress disorder, impacting their overall health and attitude toward future pregnancies. Prolonged labor can also put infants at risk for serious birth injuries that can result in permanent disabilities. When this happens, contact an experienced birth injury attorney to discuss how to hold doctors and other attending staff accountable.