Just like at the end of a long work day, women tends to look forward to putting their feet up and relaxing with a nice cup of tea. In terms of pregnancy, after the epically long 9 month journey that involves emotional changes, physical changes, and a whole lot of life changes, one would certainly look forward to it finally being over!
With pregnancy, there is an expected timeline of things. The baby grows in the womb for 9 months, a few hours of labor is endured, baby is born, and a whole new ball game starts. That is how it generally is, right?
Well, this isn’t always the way that things pan out. Some babies have their own agendas from inside the womb. Some babies just don’t want to leave.
By this point, you might be thinking about an overdue expected date of delivery. This does happen quite regularly, since it is hard for doctors to get a precise expected date. So going past the due date is likely to happen.
In other ways, babies don’t want to leave the womb. They think they’re ready, but they’re just not. They were so convincing thinking they were ready, but then labor gets underway. The baby basically hovers their finger over the eject button, but then retreats at the last minute. Yet, the warning signs have already gone and poor mom is gearing up for labor.
You can hope that the labor won’t last too long, but there are many signs it could last for up to a week!
15 Doc Already Knows The Baby Is Big
A big baby is a big deal when it comes to giving birth. They say that big things come in small packages, but that just isn’t the case if there is a big, big baby growing inside the womb. Big babies contribute to prolonged labor because they are simply too big to get through the birthing canal in a swift and quick manner.
Another issue that bigger babies have is trouble turning around in the womb. This means that while contractions are happening and the uterus is ready to evict, the baby is still just chilling with its head up top. A big baby will get around to the right position in its own time. Poor mom just has to sit back hoping it is going to be in under a week!
14 The Head Hasn’t Turned Around Yet
Coming back to the baby’s position, this is a crucial thing to show that the baby is ready to come out of the uterus without any dramas. Thanks to our well-evolved biological instinct, babies do automatically turn around and have their head facing down to the birthing canal. This is called crowning, and it will happen.
It just might not happen straight away. Every baby is kind of running at its own pace in the womb. Some babies will be swift and ready for action, getting their head down and pushing out after the first contractions. Other babies, for whatever reason, take this at a lolling pace. A lazy turner in the womb isn’t all that desirable in labor! Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do apart from wait for the baby to get into position.
13 You’ve Got A Small Birthing Canal
Women come in all shapes and sizes, which is awesome for diversity and generally interesting people. As the shape and size of a woman’s body is varied so is the shape and size of the birthing canal. In some cases, wide-woman are blessed with a wide birthing canal ready to push any sized baby out. In other cases, more slender women with narrow hips might find that their birthing canal is more on the narrow side.
Of course, there is no judgment about what size birthing canal you have. In fact, many narrow sized birthing canals can still have a speedy birth, and wider ones have can have a prolonged birth. Just be warned that if your doctor mentions narrow birthing canal too many times with a worried expression, you might be in for the long haul!
12 Contractions Aren’t As Painful As You’d Expect
Ironically, contractions are something that should be painful. In fact, the more painful the contractions are, the better the birth is going. This isn’t exactly what expectant mom’s want to hear, but there is some science behind it. Basically, as pain shoots through the body with each contraction, a hormone called oxytocin is released. This hormone is responsible for getting the labor and birth underway in a rapid manner.
So, with less painful contractions, it means that things are taking longer. If you have just slight contractions that feel more like cramps, you wouldn’t be so wrong to expect them to last up to a week. Things might be less painful, but they take longer this way. It is like being between a rock and hard place: do you want speed and pain, or comfort and a long drawn out labor?
11 One Stage Of Labor Lasts Longer Than The Norm
When it comes to giving birth, there are actually three stages of labor. The first stage of labor is called ‘early phase labor’ and this is when labor just comes about and the cervix dilates to about 3 cm. The next phase, called ‘active phase labor’ is, as the name suggests, a whole lot more active. The cervix continues to dilate to 7 cm here and the contractions are more intense. Finally, there is the third stage of labor called ‘transition phase’. Here, the cervix makes it to the glorious, well-rounded (literally) 10 cm.
However, if, for instance, the first stage of labor takes what seems like a century, things are going to be delayed. Likewise, you might rush through stage one of labor and think things are smoothly progressing, but be held up in stage two. There is no real time frame with these stages!
10 Dilation Just Isn’t Happening
Perhaps the most important thing that happens during labor and delivery is the whole dilation thing. This is when the cervical opening, found at the bottom of the uterus and the top of the vagina stretches like it has never stretched before. Normally about 3 cm to 4 cm wide without pregnancy, the cervix needs to get a whole lot wider to let that baby out. This is called dilation.
Dilation occurs when contractions push and and push on the cervix. The combination of this pressure as well as the hormones having a rave party in the body cause dilation. Ideally, dilation isn’t going to take that long. But, if it is delayed for whatever reason, you can expect to stay in labor longer than a mere few hours!
9 The Due Date Has Already Passed
For many expectant moms, circling the date on the calendar that the doctor said the baby would arrive is a glorious feeling. Knowing that with each day passing by, with each week, and each month, the baby is just that little bit closer to exiting the womb and coming into the real world. So, when that date passes and the baby stays inside, there are less than happy feelings going on.
More often than not, babies aren’t born on their due date. Some are earlier, but most are later. This is because the due date is just an educated guess but it can’t really be a firm prediction. Unfortunately, the longer the baby stays in the womb, the longer the labor is likely to be. This is because the baby keeps getting bigger inside the womb. Hopefully. labor won’t last a week, but you never know!
8 An Epidural For Pain Relief, Not Time Quickening
No one ever said that giving birth wouldn’t be painful. In fact, it will probably be the most painful experience of most women's’ lives. This is one of the primary reasons why science invented a thing called an epidural. An epidural is a big old needle that is filled with wonderful pain relief. Injected into the spine during labor, it essentially numbs the pain of contractions.
This all sounds appealing for expectant moms, to not feel anything during labor. However, when the pain of contractions is masked, you instinctively push less. For a speedy labor, you really need to push, push, and push quickly. With an epidural, the pushing becomes a little lazier and unmotivated. Don’t be too surprised if bubs decides to hang around for longer if you’re not pushing the best you can!
7 Tension From Mom
No one in the world is going to blame a woman for being nervous about giving birth. This is probably one of the most emotionally and physically challenging things a woman can go through in her life. Childbirth is downright scary, there is no denying that. However, the more tense and anxious a woman is about going into labor and giving birth, the more it can delay the events.
Sometimes labor can start and the contractions can kick into gear, but if you are feeling tense, nervous, and anxious about it all, you can subconsciously slow down the proceedings. The mind and body are connected in so many intricate ways, and the pace of labor is one of them. Relaxation is important if you don’t want labor going on for a whole week.
6 Active Labor Is A Bit Inactive
We talked earlier about the three stages of labor. The second stage of labor, the active phase, is one of the most important. This is where the most dilation of the cervix happens, and it is the one that takes the longest. The second stage of labor can last from just 20 minutes up to two or three days. There is really no set time for it.
Generally, dilation happens quickly here. The contraction time speeds up, with contractions happening every two or three minutes and dilation going at about 45 mm per minute. This is a best-case scenario, though. If the contractions are slow, or the ratio of dilation to contraction isn’t matching, you can expect a pretty inactive second stage of labor, slowing things down considerably.
5 Early Labor Is Tricking You
Pregnancy is a tricky old thing and sometimes it feels like things are happening when they just aren’t. Labor is one of these things. First of all, women have to be wary of Braxton Hicks contractions tricking them into thinking labor has started. False alarms are no fun and shouldn’t even be part of the game.
Another thing is that early labor can sneak up and hit, but it isn’t really early labor. It is really hard to tell when labor actually starts, so the term early labor is really broad. Pre-labor can actually last for days or weeks. Since there is no real decider when early labor has moved into active labor, you might just find yourself stuck in limbo for a week or so.
4 You’re Stuck At One End Of Friedman’s Curve
Despite labor being such a frustrating and tricky process, doctors really do try their best to make some sense of this nonsensical pattern. One such method is called Friedman’s Curve. In 1955, Dr. Friedman studied 500 women in labor and plotted their labor times on a graph. This graph calculated the average time it took a woman to dilate another centimeter.
This graph is still used an a handy reference to show women, or for doctors to understand, how far away a woman might be from full dilation. Of course, you could observe every woman in the world giving birth and no graph would make sense of what goes on with labor. The process is too individual and too off-the-charts! Nonetheless, sometimes a graphic representation of where you are in the process can be reassuring.
3 Underwhelming Oxytocin
The oxytocin hormone is playing games with the body all throughout pregnancy. It comes back to the forefront of the field when labor is underway. Oxytocin is responsible for kick starting contractions and keeping these going in the active phase of labor.
The oxytocin levels really need to be left alone. If there are too many or too few of them, due to too much stress in your body or medical interventions like an epidural, the oxytocin can wreak havoc with labor. If something happens to interfere with oxytocin, the levels will drop significantly. If they drop, the contractions slow down, and labor just keeps on keeping on at a much slower pace. Let the oxytocin roam free for a faster labor!
2 Double Trouble On Its Way
They say that one baby is hard work, so twins are guaranteed to be double the trouble. Well, this is true from the moment the twins are working their way out of the womb. Naturally, one would expect that giving birth to two babies would take longer. However, it isn’t just the delivery that takes longer, but the labor as well.
Firstly, a woman has to work twice as hard to push with twins as the contractions are longer and often more painful. Also, it takes a little bit longer for the cervix to fully dilate because of the increased pressure in other areas of the uterus. Then, both the twins have to position themselves with their head facing down for the final stage of labor to get underway. This can take a whole lot longer, meaning labor lasts longer than you’d want.
1 A History Of C-Sections
Typically, one C-section means that another C-section will follow for baby number two. However, more and more women are opting for a VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section) and if there is nothing medical getting in the way and the woman is eligible for it, doctors will (usually) let this go ahead.
However, a VBAC can often mean that labor will last longer than a standard vaginal birth. This is because, although the body has been through pregnancy before, it hasn’t had to rely on full dilation of the cervix. While the hormones were present in a C-section delivery, they didn’t have to work until the end of their shift to get the baby out. Without medical assistance this time, labor might just last longer, but it will get there in the end.
Sources: Webmd.com, Bellybelly.com.au, Babycentre.com.uk