Precipitous Labor

“You’re so lucky!” is a common exclamation women who labored quickly often hear. But those who have precipitous–or rapid–labors would often beg to differ. A precipitous labor, or one that happens in fewer than 2-3 hours (definitions vary) from the onset of regular contractions to the birth of the baby, is often very, VERY intense.

Imagine that there’s a finite amount of discomfort allocated for each birth. This is the discomfort involved in dilation of the cervix and movement of the baby through the pelvis and soft tissues. Laboring and birthing in a fraction of that time, doesn’t necessarily reduce the discomfort–the cervix still needs to dilate and the baby still needs to move down and out–it’s just happening in a much shorter space. This, of course, makes the process more intense, and can often lead to feeling out of control and even traumatized during and after the birth.

Fortunately, the outcomes of precipitous birth are generally good, despite the fact that these are the births that often happen in unplanned locations. Clients in our practice have unexpectedly delivered in cars, hallways, and garages as they tried to get to the birth center or hospital. These wild births prompted them to plan home births for subsequent pregnancies. Of course, the benefit of planning a home birth when you have such a history is that you’re not in transit yourself, but the chance of your midwife missing the birth is certainly higher. That being said, having your midwife on speaker phone and on the way to you and being in an area you’ve set-up for birth is preferable to the alternative for many people.

If you labor quickly, doing some visualizations and affirmations that you’re safe, the baby is safe, you’re going along for the ride, etc., may help to some degree. There is often less in the way of comfort measures like massage or counter pressure that is going to help in these births. But for those who think those who labor quickly won some sort of lottery, know that people who have precipitous deliveries are not “getting off easy” or “lucky.” And again, we must be mindful of how we speak to and about birthing people. It is impossible to know another’s experience.

Photo shared with permission by Monet Nicole Birthing Stories.

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