A pregnancy that progresses without any noticeable problem may still give way to complications during labor and childbirth. Some of the most common labor complications are:
The full term of pregnancy is 40 weeks. Preterm or premature birth is one that takes place more than three weeks before the baby's due date. Because a preterm birth gives a baby less time to develop, it can lead to severe birth complications such as breathing problems, heart problems, brain injury, digestive system problems and immune problems. Preterm birth can also lead to long-term health issues such as cerebral palsy. Doctors can anticipate preterm labor in the presence of the following risk factors:
- Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc)
- In vitro fertilization
- Preterm delivery in the past
- Urinary tract infection in the mother
Depending on the patient's complaints and stage of pregnancy, doctors may order bed rest. Doctors also have to closely monitor for the signs of labor and take timely and precautionary measures to avoid early labor. In case of a premature delivery, medical providers may have to administer drugs to prevent infections and prepare the lungs of the baby for premature birth to avoid brain damage from lack of oxygen.
Breech birth is a condition where the feet of the baby start crowning during a vaginal delivery. Typically the ideal presentation of the fetus is when the head starts crowning first. Breech and other abnormal presentations are not uncommon in vaginal births, but they can be extremely dangerous. Doctors must carefully monitor the condition of the fetus in these situations and take appropriate action to ensure that injury does not occur.
Doctors should be able to determine the position of the fetus through examination or ultrasound. When a breech presentation is recognized, the doctor may attempt to manually reposition the fetus. If this does not work, a C-section may be the best option for safely delivering the fetus. A failure to timely perform a C-section can be hazardous to the mother and fetus.
Prolonged labor is when the duration between the water breaking and the delivery is too long. Prolonged labor poses several risks to the baby's health. Injuries or wrongful death may be caused during prolonged labor when there is a:
- Failure to monitor the condition of the mother and fetus
- Failure to recognize and treat fetal distress
- Oxygen deprivation and fetal hypoxia
- Too much time in the birth canal
- Failure to perform a C-section
- Improper use of a vacuum or forceps
There are recognized standards of care for managing labor, including the time it takes to get a surgical team ready for an emergency C-section and the decision to induce labor. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidelines were revised in 2009 to state that elective induction of labor should occur only after 39 weeks of gestation, instead of the previous recommendation of 37 weeks. ACOG guidelines also indicate that inducing labor with misoprostol is not recommended for women who have had a prior C-section because of the risk of uterine rupture.
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