Six Of The Most Common Labor Complications | Fit Pregnancy

Delivery Room Drama

Many labor complications sound worse than they are. We explain six of the most common and how your doctor will manage them.


4. Meconium Aspiration

What it means: Meconium (a black, tarry substance in the baby’s intestines) is present in amniotic fluid the baby has inhaled. This can cause breathing complications.

Frequency: More common in babies a week or more overdue, meconium is passed in 10 percent of labors. Of these, between 1 percent and 6 percent of babies become ill from it.

Likely remedies: If meconium is spotted, your doctor or midwife will clear it from the baby’s nose and mouth at birth. If the baby has inhaled it, she’ll go to intensive care. “Most babies do fine and just need a little breathing support,” says Goldstone-Orly.

5. Nuchal Cord

What it means: The umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck.

Frequency: Approximately 25 percent of births

Likely remedies: “A nuchal cord doesn’t necessarily mean the baby is in danger,” says Levine. “Even if it sometimes causes the baby’s heart rate to go down, a nuchal cord doesn’t have to be serious. But if you have a contraction and the baby’s heart rate doesn’t go back up afterward, the cord may be too tight, and that could mean the baby is having problems.” If you’re unable to push the baby out, forceps or a vacuum extractor may be used to assist the baby down the canal. “If the baby is too high or the mother is not adequately dilated, a C-section might be necessary,” Goldstone-Orly says.

6. Cephalopelvic Disproportion (CPD)

What it means: The baby’s head is too big to pass through the mother’s pelvis, resulting in “failure to progress.”

Frequency: Unknown. The condition is hard to quantify because it’s impossible to be sure if it’s a true CPD or simply a failure to progress—i.e., the mother’s cervix stops dilating, or the baby is not moving down due to undetermined causes.

Likely remedies: Failure to progress is the single most common cause for a C-section, though you may be given the drug Pitocin to induce contractions first. Unfortunately, there’s no accurate way to predict CPD before labor. “You can measure the mom’s pelvis by feeling it, but that is unreliable,” says Goldstone-Orly. However, exercising during pregnancy and keeping your weight gain within recommended limits can diminish your chances of developing gestational diabetes, thus reducing the risk of having a too-large baby, Goldstone-Orly adds.


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