Dangers of Prolonged Labor or Arrested Labor

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Know the Dangers of Prolonged Labor or Arrested Labor from Our Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Portland, OR

While labor may seem long and taxing, there is a point in time in which it is unsafe for for a mother to continue laboring. This is because labor that is prolonged can lead to serious complications for the mother and baby. Many women, especially first time mothers often face long labors, but at a certain point in time, intervention must occur. When complications with the baby occur during delivery and shortly after, these are considered birth injuries. When doctors allow prolonged labor to occur without intervening (i.e. c-section) and the mother or baby suffers harm as a result, this is considered to be medical malpractice. The dangers of prolonged labor are real and could be life-threatening.

What is Prolonged Labor?

While labor can appear slow at times (especially for first time mothers), it is important that the mother is progressively dilating and there is effacement (thinning) of her cervix. The first stage of labor (latent phase) is often the slowest phase, but cervical changes should still be occurring. Once a mother becomes 4cm dilated, she enters the active phase of labor. This is supposed to progress more quickly than the latent phase. During the active phase of labor, the cervix should be dilating at least 1.2cm per hour if this is a woman’s first birth, or 1.5cm or more if this is a subsequent birth of another child. If a mother’s cervix is not progressing according to these guidelines, the mother is considered to have prolonged or arrested labor.  There are many dangers of prolonged labor.

What is Arrested Labor? 

According to the Friedman Curve, arrested labor occurs in one of two situations in a woman who is dilated more than 6cm, whose membranes have ruptured and she is experiencing one of the following: 

  • She is having normal contractions but there is a lack of cervical change for four hours or more
  • There is an absence of adequate contractions and there has been a lack of cervical change for six hours or more

These guidelines are to be followed to prevent dangerous situations from occurring. The difference between prolonged and arrested labor is that while a woman in prolonged labor has experienced her labor slowing significantly, arrested labor is when there is no progress of the woman’s labor.

Why Do Some Women Experience Prolonged Labor?

Prolonged labor can occur for a variety of reasons. Causes of prolonged labor can include the following:

  • First time birth of a baby – first time mothers are especially at risk for prolonged labor as the laboring process often takes longer with the first baby
  • The baby is too large to fit through the birth canal – If the baby cannot fit through the birth canal, the labor will continue in a prolonged manner
  • Fetal malpresentation – the baby is in a position that is not conducive for labor (i.e. transverse or breech)
  • The mothers pelvis is too small for the baby to fit through the birth canal
  • The contractions are too weak, thus not allowing labor to progress as it should
  • Labor induction – women may be induced for a variety of reasons, but women who are induced are at greater risk for prolonged labor
  • Issues with uterine contraction sufficiency – some women experience inadequate contractions that are either not strong enough or coordinated enough to dilate and cause labor to progress

While there are many reasons labor may be prolonged, these are just a few of these reasons.   Al the reasons, however, bring dangers of prolonged labor.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Prolonged and Arrested Labor?

When all or some of the following occur, this can indicate that the woman is in prolonged or arrested labor: 

  • Decreased labor pains due to the muscles becoming fatigued
  • Labor that extends 14-20 hours or more
  • High maternal pulse rate
  • Maternal exhaustion 
  • Dehydration of the mother 
  • Tenderness of the uterus to the touch
  • Coupling or tripling contraction patterns, which are abnormal
  • Dilation of the large intestines – the scan be felt along the uterus on both sides
  • Fetal distress
  • Pain in the sides and back, radiating to the thighs

How Should Prolonged or Arrested Labor be Managed?

If a woman is in prolonged or arrested labor, a physician must intervene to avoid her to the mother or baby. If a woman is in the active phase of labor and it is prolonged, Pitocin is sometimes used to help strengthen uterine contractions and aid in progression of labor. Rupture of the membranes sometimes occurs (amniotomy) to accelerate labor. The use of vacuum extractors or forceps are sometimes used if the mother is struggling to delivery the baby. However, these tools can cause traumatic brain injuries if used improperly. If these methods fail, or if the mother or fetus is in distress, a c-section may be chosen. A c-section is surgical removal of the baby, and is chosen when a vaginal delivery is no longer safe for the mother and child. 

Consequences and Dangers of Prolonged Labor 

There are many risks that both mother and baby face with prolonged labor. In fact, many birth injuries that occur during labor and delivery often result after a prolonged labor. Complications of prolonged labor can include the following: 

  • Anoxic brain injury
  • Hypoxic brain injury
  • Placental abruption
  • Maternal hypotension
  • Umbilical cord compression
  • Fetal heart rate dangerously low 
  • Intracranial hemorrhage
  • Sepsis
  • Risks to the newborn for seizure disorders, cerebral palsy, or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
  • Postpartum hemorrhage 
  • Postpartum infection
  • Intrauterine infections 
  • Maternal birth passage injuries (i.e. vaginal wall tears, cervical tears)

Dangers of Prolonged Labor Related Medical Malpractice

While it is not necessarily a physicians fault if a woman’s labor does not progress, it is their duty to intervene at some point in time to prevent complications from occurring. When a physician allows for the mother to continue laboring after many hours with signs of arrested or prolonged labor present, this could be considered medical malpractice if the mother or the baby suffer harm from one of these scenarios. Additionally, if a physician fails to identify that the mother or fetus is in distress, leading to harm of the mother or the fetus, this is considered medical malpractice. 

Ask our Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Portland, OR for Help With Your Case

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.

Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.

We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.

For a free case evaluation


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