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Complications in Labor

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Pregnant Mom Looking at Fetal Monitor Photo © Schweinepriester - Fotolia.com

When do complications occur in labor and delivery?:

Complications, while fairly rare, do happen in all births. The range of complications go from very minor to deathly serious. Complications of labor can occur to any mother, in any birth setting, with any practitioner. There are simply some variables that no one can completely erase.

That said, a healthy mother, who has had a healthy, well cared for pregnancy is likely to have fewer complications than a mother who has had little prenatal care or who has a history of chronic disease or a history of pregnancy complications. Your midwife or doctor can explain your risk factors to you during your prenatal visits.

Preterm Labor:

This is when labor starts before the 37th week of pregnancy. For many moms this will happen very early, even just past 20 weeks. The earlier the labor starts the riskier the birth. Talk to your practitioner about the signs of premature labor and get instructions on what you should do if you experience these signs. About 10% of women will experience preterm labor. And the risks to your baby increase, even just being born a few weeks early.

Placenta Issues:

Many of the placental issues are known before the birth, though occasionally this is not true. Issues with the placenta can also happen once labor is started. You may suffer from the placenta covering all or part of the cervix (placenta previa), your placenta may tear away from the uterine wall too early (placental abruption/abruptio) or your placenta may grow through the lining of your uterus. All of these are more common after uterine surgery, like a cesarean section. These problems can cause maternal or fetal hemorrhage, resulting the loss of blood or death for mother or baby.

Bleeding Issues:

Postpartum hemorrhage is bleeding excessively after birth. This is more common with a cesarean section, but can also happen after a vaginal birth. There are certain factors that make it more likely including:

Talk to your doctor or midwife about how they handle bleeding in the postpartum period. Most start with uterine massage, then go to medications and finally surgery to remove the placenta, the uterine lining and, worst case scenario, the uterus.

Fetal Distress:

Fetal distress can be caused by cord issues, medications in labor, infection and induction. This is one of the reasons that fetal monitoring is used in labor. Other than variables in the baby's heart rate in labor could be the sign of meconium, baby's first bowel movement. Neither of these are absolute indicators, which is why there are other tests used, including fetal scalp pH sampling and the use of internal fetal monitoring. If the birth is not imminent, a forceps, vacuum extractor or cesarean section are used to accomplish the birth more quickly.

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