Women have babies on a daily basis. Most of the time, a woman's birth story goes well and smoothly, but there are certain things that can happen during labor moms should always prepare for. Doctors and midwives keep a close eye on mom and her unborn baby and intervene whenever necessary.
It's important for moms to know about potential issues -- not so they can panic but so they can prepare and avoid problems when possible. Some of these situations that occur during labor can be avoided with the right prenatal care, while others cannot be avoided and must simply be dealt with when they occur.
Doctors, midwives, and nurses know the signs to look for, and mom should also be aware of what can go wrong so she'll know when to let someone know that things feel off. Trusting instincts and asking questions during labor is fine, and mom should know all she can before the contractions start.
There are also signs that labor might be pretty straightforward and simple. The mom-to-be has control over some of these, but for others, she does not.
Don't stress about labor because it is a natural process, but do know that things don't always go perfectly. Luckily, there are interventions that can help keep the baby safe and alive while offering mom a bit more peace about the birthing outcome. Here, we will cover 10 signs that labor will go smoothly and 10 that are potential problems.
20 Smooth Sign: Help From A Doula
It might sound crazy but women who hire doulas to help them during the difficulties of labor just may end up with an easier labor and delivery. The benefits of a doula are researched and they are vast.
A doula can cut a woman's chances of a c-section by half, and she may also help mom get through labor without any artificial help. The length of labor usually isn't as long with a doula's assistance. Most moms also manage to hold off the Pitocin and the epidural. Overall, doulas seem to bring the magic that makes birth easier and more enjoyable for mom.
19 Smooth Sign: Having A Plan
Laugh all you want, but women with birth plans could have an easier time of labor. Having a birth plan does not guarantee that all will go according to what mom wrote down, but a birth plan is usually a pretty good sign that mom is educated about her birth options. This can make labor easier because mom is more prepared to make decisions as they arise since she put in the work beforehand to search out her options.
Doctors don't always hate birth plans, contrary to what many people think, and going over the birth plan with the doctor prior to labor can ensure everyone assisting with birth knows what mom wants in an ideal or emergency situation. That takes the stress off the mom in the moment.
18 Smooth Sign: Supportive Partner
Doulas are amazing, but they don't replace the loving touch of a partner when a woman is in labor. Having a partner who has attended the birthing classes, read the pregnancy books, and is on board for whatever mom needs are all signs that mom will face labor with support. That kind of support can make the whole experience easier.
Having someone who knows mom help her manage stress and make her desires known to the medical staff helps mom focus on the task at hand without other stressors getting in her way. Teach your partner how to help you and watch labor go a lot smoother for all involved.
17 Smooth Sign: Mom Starts On Her Own
Having a medical induction is a fairly common occurrence now, but any doctor or midwife will tell you it's impossible to make mom labor when her body isn't ready. Pitocin, breaking the water or offering other types of artificial help to get labor moving only work if mom's body is already set to start soon anyway. Trying to force labor with a medical induction can actually cause problems if labor starts but mom's body stalls out because it wasn't time yet.
That's why it's better if mom goes into labor on her own. If the contractions start and grow closer together and more intense on their own, that's a good sign that mom's body is ready to get started and ready to finish the job, hopefully without a lot of interventions.
16 Smooth Sign: Previous Birth
Every labor is different just like every child is different, but if it's not mom's first time to give birth, then she may have an easier time of it. Labors after the first may be shorter, and mom knows what to expect going in so she's mentally prepared to handle the demands of hours of work. She often has a better plan in place for how to handle pain, who she wants in the room, and what to do when things get tough.
If mom's first birth did not go how she planned, she can still go into the next one with a clean slate. Past birthing experiences do not always affect subsequent ones, so it's possible for mom's second labor to be even better than the first.
15 Smooth Sign: Grandma Had It Easy
If the laboring mom's had a short labor herself, then mom has a better chance of having a short labor. Unfortunately, if women in mom's family have long labors, that can affect her too. Though short labors don't always mean easy labors, there are risks associated with a labor going too long, the shorter the better in many circumstances.
Mom can't help it if her genetic fate does not predestine her to a short labor, and just because mom had a longer experience doesn't mean you will. It just stacks the deck in mom's favor if her mom had an easier time.
14 Smooth Sign: An Easy Pregnancy
An easy pregnancy doesn't guarantee an easy birth, but a pregnancy that has been devoid of health issues or other complications can definitely give mom an advantage in labor. Not gaining too much weight, not developing gestational diabetes, and staying active throughout the pregnancy can help mom glide through birth much easier.
Certain conditions can cause the baby to be so large that birth complications occur. If mom isn't in good shape, she may also have a hard time making it through the strenuous work of labor because her endurance is low. Anything mom can do to stay as healthy as possible while pregnant will help her in labor and possibly make recovery faster.
13 Smooth Sign: Birthing Options
The more choices mom has about how she labors, the more likely she can find something that works for her. Will her doctor allow her to walk around during birth? Can she use a birthing pool? What options are available for her if birth stalls and she wants to try to avoid a C-section?
Hospitals, doctors, and midwives can help mom by letting her handle her birth in the way she thinks is best. Of course, it's essential to have a medical professional there to help, but doctors shouldn't limit mom's ability to move or find ways to get comfortable if at all possible.
12 Smooth Sign: Laboring Early At Home
Yes, mom needs to eventually make her way to a birthing center or hospital, but some believe the key to an easier labor involves staying at home as long as possible. Mom does not have to run to the hospital the minute contractions start. If she does, she may come up against unnecessary interventions and doctors who start the clock on her labor before she's fully ready.
Timing contractions will let mom know when she needs to head to the hospital. Until then, stay home, move around as much as possible, and wait as patiently as possible to head for the hospital unless there is a problem.
11 Smooth Sign: Doctors Who Allow Food
It used to be considered a bad idea to let women eat during labor, but that is now being questioned. In fact, the new belief is that letting women eat small, healthy snacks during labor may make the whole birthing process easier.
It makes sense. Women need fuel in the form of food to do the work of labor, and living only on ice chips through hours of contractions lessens mom's strength. The risks of a problem that would make having food in the body dangerous are small, so if mom has a doctor who is willing to let her snack while birthing, she is more likely to be able to hang in throughout labor.
10 Watch Out For: The Baby's Heart Rate
A baby's heart rate will fluctuate during labor, and that is normal. The stress of the birthing process is felt by mom and the baby, and that is why the fetal heart rate monitor will not always show a steady, even heart rate.
However, there are times when an abnormal fetal heart rate may mean trouble, especially if the heart rate is erratic or crashing without coming back up. At this point, doctors often move to a surgical delivery to ensure that the baby can make it out of the womb (happy and healthily) before complications progress.
9 Watch Out For: Meconium Release
Meconium is the first thing that comes out of the baby's intestines and is sometimes called the baby's first poop. Ideally, it does not come out until the baby is out of mom's body, but on certain occasions, babies release meconium while in the womb and it enters their respiratory system.
There are many reasons this occurs, including stress during labor or a pregnancy that has gone overdue, and it usually does not cause long-term issues. However, a child suffering from meconium aspiration syndrome needs to be treated. This is why doctors check babies when they are born for any signs of this condition.
8 Watch Out For: Medical History
Mom will have a ton of blood drawn when she goes in for her first pregnancy check-up. Throughout pregnancy, she will also be checked for other possible infections, such as Group B Strep. If any of these come back positive, steps will be taken to make sure they don't endanger the baby during labor.
Because certain STDs and other infections can be passed to a baby during delivery, special care will be taken to control these infections so they don't endanger the child. If the precautions and treatments don't have the desired effect and mom is still showing signs of infections, a C-section may be required.
7 Watch Out For: The Position
Children do not always cooperate with parents' plans. For instance, moms want their babies in a head down position for labor because this is the easiest way to have a V delivery. However, some babies decide to stay breech or turn into the breech position during labor.
Breech means the feet or bottom are coming out first instead of the head. While babies can be delivered in the breech position, this situation does present certain challenges and can lead to problems or injuries for the baby. If the baby's body comes out but the head becomes stuck, this is a major issue.
6 Watch Out For: Uterine Rupture
It is extremely rare for a uterine rupture to occur, but when it does it is absolutely an emergency for the baby.
Uterine rupture is more likely if a mom is trying to have a V birth after a C-section, also known as a VBAC. Even then the risk increases only slightly, but doctors often cite this increased chance for rejecting VBAC requests.
Women stand a less than one percent chance of dealing with uterine rupture, but when it occurs it can endanger mom and the baby and requires immediate attention.
5 Watch Out For: Whether Or Not To Induce
Pitocin is generally the artificial help of choice when trying to induce labor medically. This medication sometimes helps move labor along, but it can also cause problems for the baby.
Pitocin has been linked to uterine rupture and can actually also cause labor to last longer. If mom's body isn't quite ready to labor and a doctor offers her Pitocin, he may be setting her up for a longer labor journey because her body wasn't ready. Being in labor too long opens up a ton of other issues for mom and the baby in the delivery room.
4 Watch Out For: Speedy Deliveries
No woman wants to linger in labor forever, but there is such a thing as a baby being born too quickly. The stories of women giving birth in cars, parking garages, or at home are real, and they occur when the baby comes out faster than mom can make it to the hospital.
While it's nice to get labor over with quickly, a child born via speedy delivery may need special care that requires a hospital. If mom can't make it to the hospital in time, then she is left trying to figure out how to help her child without professionals to guide her. This situation is scary and potentially dangerous for the baby.
3 Watch Out For: Prolonged Labors
No mom wants to be in labor for too long, but this is just as much a safety issue as it is a comfort one. Also referred to as failure to progress, labor is considered prolonged when mom has been in labor for 20 hours and the baby has not arrived.
There are many causes of prolonged labor, including the position and the size of the baby. The risks of being in labor too long include heart rate and oxygen issues for the baby, and uterine infections can also complicate the whole thing. Women go through a prolonged labor may end up with C-sections to remove the baby before difficulties occur. Surgical births have their own risks for both mom and the baby.
2 Watch Out For: The Umbilical Cord
Although a rare occurrence, cord prolapse occurs when the umbilical cord exits before the baby, causing the possibility for tons of problems. This happens in less than one percent of births, and most of the time mom's water has already broken.
The biggest problem with a prolapsed cord is compression. That's why the umbilical cord exiting the womb before the baby is always an emergency. If it happens while mom is at home, she needs to have someone call for emergency services immediately. If it happens while she is in labor at the hospital, the doctors and nurses will spring into immediate action.
1 Watch Out For: Macrosomia
Fetal macrosomia occurs when a child is larger than average. The baby has to weigh over 8 pounds and 13 ounces, and this may cause problems when the baby tries to exit the womb. Around ten percent of women have a child who suffers from macrosomia, and this makes injuries to the baby more likely during labor.
When the baby finally does it make it out of the womb, hopefully without injury, he still isn't free of the risks macrosomia causes. Children who are this large at birth are more likely to have problems with obesity, blood sugar, and metabolic syndrome.
References: Richmondobgyn.com, Healthline.com, AmericanPregnancy.org, Medlineplus.gov