What Are the Risks of Prolonged Labor?

What Are the Risks of Prolonged Labor?

What is Prolonged Labor?

Prolonged labor, also known as “failure to progress,” occurs when labor has stalled or moved slower than expected. Generally, if labor lasts for more than 20 hours (for first-time mothers) or more than 14 hours for women who have given birth before, your doctor should conduct a series of tests to determine why your labor isn’t progressing to avoid complications. Here are the risk factors of prolonged labor you should know.

Common Causes of Prolonged Labor

Prolonged labor can be attributed to the following:

  • Slow cervical dilation - When the cervix isn’t dilating, labor cannot progress for the fetus to descend.
  • Slow effacement - Effacement happens when the cervix thins during labor, and it prepares your body for delivery.
  • Abnormal position of the baby – During labor, it is desired that the fetus be head down (vertex) rather than head up (breech) or sideways (transverse). Similarly, it is desired that the vertex fetus be head-down and facing your back.
  • Small birth canal or narrow pelvis - This can halt a baby from passing through.
  • Weak contractions - Pain medication that is given during labor can contribute to the weakening of uterine contractions.
  • A large baby -- Medically referred to as cephalopelvic disproportion, a large baby can have difficulty passing through the birth canal.

Prolonged Labor Risks

If your labor lasts longer than anticipated, and medical care isn’t administered timely or appropriately, it could pose the following problems:

  • Lack of oxygen - When a fetus’ brain is deprived of oxygen, it can lead to long-term disabilities with speech and mobility, learning difficulties, autism, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy.
  • Fetal distress - Signs of fetal distress may be difficult to detect, which is why it is necessary that your obstetrics providers properly monitor you and your fetus for abnormal signs. One thing that Mothers can notice is decreased fetal movement. Sometimes that occurs when the fetus is sleeping, and other times the decreased movement occurs when your fetus’ oxygen levels drop to dangerous levels. When it goes undetected, or it isn’t addressed immediately, the long-term effects could lead to hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy -- a type of permanent brain damage.
  • Use of forceps/vacuum extraction - When labor isn’t progressing, doctors may make the decision to use forceps or vacuum extraction to assist with delivery. However, when neither are used properly, there can be an increased risk of long-term damage to the baby, resulting in birth injuries such as
    • Cerebral palsy
    • Bleeding on the brain or in the tissues above the brain due to the traction injuries due to the forces from the vacuum or forceps
    • Skull fractures
    • Brachial plexus injuries (paralysis to the arm), including Erbs palsy

Did Your Baby Suffer a Birth Injury? Contact Us Today

When a lack of proper treatment happens during labor and delivery, it could put you and your baby at risk of a birth injury — and when that happens, you have the right to seek justice and compensation. Our attorneys at The Beasley Firm, LLC, have extensive experience in litigating highly complex birth injury cases. From medical bills, lost wages, emotional suffering, and more, we’ve secured hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients to ensure they receive the future care they need.


We want to help you receive the compensation that you deserve. Contact The Beasley Firm, LLC today at (215) 866-2424 to schedule a free consultation.

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