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Prolonged Labor


How Is Prolonged Labor Treated?

If your labor is going slowly, you may be advised to just rest for a little while. Sometimes medicine is given to ease your labor pains and help you relax. You may feel like changing your body position to become more comfortable.

Additional treatment depends on why your labor is going slowly.

If the baby is already in the birth canal, the doctor or midwife may use special tools called forceps or a vacuum device to help pull the baby out through the vagina. 

If your baby can fit through the birth canal, you may receive Pitocin (oxytocin). This medicine speeds up contractions and makes them stronger. Doctors have used this drug to help avoid the need for C-sections in some women. But a 2011 review of more than 1,300 pregnant women found that oxytocin did not lower the chances of a C-section or delivery using forceps.

If the baby is too big, or the medicine does not speed up delivery, you will need a C-section.

Risks of Prolonged Labor

Prolonged labor increases the chances that you will need a C-section.

Labor that takes too long can be dangerous to the baby. It may cause:

  • low oxygen levels for the baby
  • abnormal heart rhythm in the baby
  • abnormal substances in the amniotic fluid

If the baby is in distress, you will need an emergency delivery.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 24, 2012
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