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Slow Progression of Labour

Labour that progresses too slowly is a sign that not everything is as it should be during labour and birth . Reasons for a slow progression of labour include:

  • Weak contractions are only one of several reasons why labour progress may be slow or come to what is in most cases a temporary halt.
  • The baby may be in the occiput posterior position , a hidden factor in as many as half of all caesareans for poor progress. In the posterior position , the back of the baby’s head (occiput) is towards the mothers back. During labour with a baby in the favourable anterior position , contractions push the rounded crown of the baby’s head downward against the cervix, which helps open it. However, the posterior baby can not help because the cervix lies against the broad middle of the baby’s head. In addition, most posterior babies cannot fit through their mothers pelvis without swivelling to anterior.
  • Sometimes in early labour the cervix, the neck-like opening of the uterus, impedes progress. During pregnancy, the cervix's job is to keep the baby in against the pull of gravity. In preparation for labour and during early labour, the firm connective tissue in the cervix softens like a dry sponge absorbing water, the cervix shifts forward so as to be in line with the force of contractions, and it effaces, meaning it draws up into the body of the uterus. If the cervix has not finished this process, dilation will proceed slowly if at all.
  • Fear, anxiety, and other psychological issues can also hold up labour [ 1 ]

If labour is not progressing adequately, a forceps delivery or caesarian section may be required or the woman may be given oxytocin intravenously in order to stimulate more forceful contraction of the uterus (cf. labour induction ).

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer, 1999 Perigee Books

Other HON resources 
   From MedHunt

Slow Labour
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Contact Last modified: Jun 25 2002