9 Facts You Should Know About Precipitous Labor

So, you’ve watched every pregnancy reality show out there, every episode of prime time advice, truths and must know facts. From Runway Moms, the show that tells you how gorgeous you will look every single day of your nine month journey, to Deliver Me, where all of the drama of the remarkable event of bringing a bundle of joy into the world is presented in all of it’s crowning glory. 

Your bedside table holds every book on experiencing the perfect pregnancy, right? And have you have Googled the words baby, birth, effacement and labor a thousand times?

For sure, knowing the how and why, the can I and the should I, can be powerful tools when it comes to capturing the essence of the wonderful weeks leading up to becoming chief diaper changer and bottle washer, whether it is the first time or the fifth. Mind you, by the fifth go around you may not have quite as much time to read or peruse the net! Of course reading the same bedtime story a dozen times over will have to be accomplished before you can get to your own great books.

Statistics show that precipitous births, which are births occurring in less than three hours after contractions start, happen in just under 3% of deliveries. This type of birth is extremely fast with abnormally strong uterine and abdominal contractions, and the pain is intense to say the least. In rare situations though, there has been an absence of pain altogether!

Here are 9 reasons why you will want to be informed before the big day.

9 Labor as an extreme sport

I’ll be honest here. There is no question that I felt absolutely, completely prepared for my trip to the delivery room. But when the adventure turned into what could be called an extreme sport, I soon found out that I was not in possession of all I needed to know about babies and how they arrived! My first child’s birth turned into a precipitous one and what a roller coaster ride that was! 

From entering the labor room and feeling my first initial contraction to holding my beautiful babe in my arms, I endured a crazy hour long ride that even the scariest roller coaster trip could not top. You know, like the scenery that rolls by in a blur as you flip and turn while doing a cobra roll on a coaster, the precipitous birth can turn into a bit of a dazzling fog. Seriously, I felt it went by so fast that it was difficult to recount in great detail, but I have very vivid images from the occasion!

Which of you may be in the 2 to 3% to have a ticket on this crazy train? Teenage moms have been known to have this type of birth. Babies born preterm can show their rush to enter into the world this way. Smaller babies born at term can sometimes have a precipitous entry, too. If there is low resistance in the birth canal, a fast experience is in store for you.

You cannot fight the G-force on an extreme coaster, nor can you fight the rapid acceleration of your contractions in an extreme birth situation.

Don’t bother to take a second to scan the bedside chart that notes the time between contractions. There won’t be any breaks! The graph on the contractions chart will be one long line.

You are on a glorious ride of great intensity where the delivery is measured in minutes instead of hours.

But you are asking, how can I be in the know? Can my doctor predict if this will happen to me? To be truthful, there is absolutely no way to predict. Only if you have had a precipitous birth with your first child can you possibly prepare yourself for the event.

8 Your Nurse Can't Help

To be certain, I felt prepared entering the labor room after reading dozens of tell all books. “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” had covered everything, right? You could say I was a just little nervous that morning as I awaited this life changing event, but I soon learned one thing I didn’t remember reading. 

The number one person who knows your body is you! The kind, but brusque nurse who settled me in for the long haul came back to check on me after I had been in the delivery room for just a few minutes. She peeked her head in the door and smiled. I smiled back. At that precise moment, and of course not knowing any different, I was beginning my precipitous ride of continuous contractions.

The next time I saw my nurse, she popped in to take my vitals. Was this vital? Good thing it wasn’t as I was about ready to give birth. Remember when I mentioned that you know your body best? For real, when I told my nurse I needed to push half an hour after arriving in the labor room, she curtly assured me, “Honey, this will take all day.” 

Forgetting my usual shyness - at that point I was forgetting everything due to the non stop contractions - I yelled that in no uncertain terms was I able to not push! In all seriousness, I had no option. This precipitous delivery, a blessing and a curse at the same time, was imminent no matter what the nurse thought she knew!

She realised I was not kidding and began yelling, too - for the doctor! I had fully dilated in rapid time. Soon the labor room was full of nurses, med students and doctors who wanted to witness the occasion and navigate the waters with a mom to be who was heading over the rapids without a life jacket! Make no mistake, no book or TV show prepared me for what was about to happen. These people were crashing my party and I didn’t even care!

Contractions in precipitous labor kind of remind me of another extreme sport: zip lining!

You yell in fear but jump and grab the line anyway, knowing there is no turning back. It is impossible to stop and in a nutshell, the only way to the end is to keep going faster and more out of control.

Breathing exercises? What breathing exercises?

7 Your Partner May Not Make It

Are you wondering how an extreme labor situation affects your better half? Maybe not that much! Do not, I repeat, do not let your loved one leave the room for any reason once you are settled in.

Living in a big city, of course we had to park the car in a temporary parking spot near the maternity ward. My hubby saw me to the room and assured me I was in good hands as he left to move the car to a long term parking spot, relegated for couples expecting the day long delivery that was the norm. Being in the winter time, hubby had to navigate snowy sidewalks and hills to get back to the hospital. 

Little did he know what rapids I was navigating without him in the delivery room for the few minutes he was gone! He had listened to me quote some of the expectations and tips I had read in books during “our” perfect pregnancy. He knew he had plenty of time to get back to all of the excitement, ready to play his role of daddy to be.

Precipitous delivery? Who had ever heard of that? Hubby knew he best have a quick bite as he may not get to eat for awhile once we went over the foamy rapids, together in our raft! Muffin in hand, he returned to the birthing ward only to hear his name being frantically called over the PA system. He dove back into the room amid the sea of nurses and students, just in time to see the big event.

Our baby was born healthy, but a precipitous labor can sometimes have complications for the child. This type of birth can present a hazard to the fetus. Trauma and low oxygen levels can result. Mom’s can encounter tears due to the rapid birth, and risk of hemorrhage can occur. 

I was relieved to be in a hospital setting. But as is your prerogative, home births have taken place for thousands of years with little or no help. You might also want to use a midwife who can make the decision of when a mom and child may need to be in the hospital.

You will not need the favorite pillow you brought along for extra comfort over the long day ahead.

The carefully chosen music you downloaded for a calming effect during the day most likely will not even get listened to.

No two ways about it - your husband will not get a chance to eat the muffin he bought!

6 Drug Free Zone

Every mom has grand tales about the outright need for pain intervention or the amazing feat of going without. Have no fear - with a precipitous birth there is little chance you will even have time to think about an epidural. Will the delivery be effortless? Not! Will it be incredible? Yes, it will. Incredible, yet scary at the same time.

You may try to magically convince the medical team that intervention for pain is an absolute must. But due to the unprecedented speed of the precipitous birth, in most cases there is just no time at all for pain relief. Epidurals take between 10 and 30 minutes to be set up and running. Once an epidural is in place, long distance running will definitely not be an option for you as you must stay put for the duration. You won’t even be able to sprint for the bathroom!

You also might want to try asking for the laughing gas option, which is nitrous oxide delivered, no pun intended, at the height of a contraction. While most sources say the gas is administered by the patient themselves when they feel the need, I guarantee you, during a precipitous birth you will not have the control to do so. Let the nurse offer it and administer the dose if you choose to try it.

Honestly, with a precipitous birth, you will be in the throes of labor so fast that like me, you won’t remember that there ever was an option to numb the pain.

If you do recall the possibility of an epidural but have already undergone maximum effacement, chances are the anesthesiologist will be on a coffee break and only available in ten minutes - and you could be holding your precious newborn by then!

Hey, you are an athlete running the biggest relay race of your life! You have spent nine months training for a marathon. So don’t worry that you will have to pick up the baton and run with it drug free. You can do it! And you will be so proud of yourself, too! And at the end of day you'll be resting comfortably in your cotton pajamas with your little by your side.

5 Your Doctor Might Not Be At the Birth

Those tell all TV shows, web sites and books coached you on how to pick the perfect ob-gyn, doula or midwife. All of these professionals have great credentials to bring to the birthing table. Whichever you may choose, keep in mind with a precipitous birth, the person who walked you through the three trimesters just might not make it to the finish line.

Yes it’s true. I can attest to that as my doctor, who like all others in the profession, was completely unaware that I was in for a precipitous delivery. Sure, he arrived at the hospital as soon as he could, but by then it was all over! Remember I said I had vivid glimpses of the glorious ride of my first child’s birth in my memory? 

I can still summon into mind a complete stranger entering the chaos of the birthing room and helping me complete the final leg of the journey that was my precipitous delivery. Why didn’t I see the episode of Runway Mom that told me my carefully selected birth coach might not be there for the momentous event, the big day we had been working towards? It’s a fact; the room was full of complete strangers. 

But at that point did I care? Not one bit! In the grander scheme of things the ultimate end was a successful delivery and a healthy baby.

Seriously, always have peace of mind and recognize the fact that all who have studied and trained, whether it be an ob-gyn or a midwife, have done so because they really care about helping us throughout the miracle of birth. These people have sought these qualifications for the same reason!

Be ready to laugh and cry in the same moment during and after a birth. You may laugh at the silly things you said, or cry that your much loved ob/gyn wasn’t there to see your precious bundle in to the world. The delivery experience is one big roller coaster of emotions and it is not over yet. In fact, the ups and downs are just beginning!

The only good thing is that it's over quickly, which means you can get started on healing faster, but the ride is a killer. No it doesn't kill you silly, it's just a thrill ride that you never asked to get on and can't get off. At least when all is said and done you can rest with your babe swaddled in a blanket and focus on other important things, like being a parent.

4 You Missed the Birth

All joking aside, what do I mean by missed the birth? With the intensity of a precipitous labor, moments that seemed clear to you then may all become one big blur within a short time.

When all is said and done, fatigue sets in, and the emotional taps start to leak. Not to mention your breasts start to leak, too! You start to wonder, what do I do next?

For a fact, I can attest to, and without a smidge of shame, that my births were a bit of a blur. My experiences with precipitous births, yep, there were three of them, are more like photo albums than storybooks! Sure, I have some pretty concrete memories of a few things I yelled, and the tears and exclamations of joy after each blessed event and arrival of our precious little one. 

But my third delivery ordeal - and yes as awesome as delivering a baby is, one can describe it as an ordeal if it makes them feel better - a 32 minute event from first contraction to holding my precious babe in my arms went by in a flash of intensity.

But don’t feel sad if your birthing adventure zooms by like a Formula 1 race car on the track to victory! You have reached the finish line - and you did not even need to make a pit stop. It’s trophy time! And time to pop the celebration champagne, especially since you have been dry now for nine months.

What’s more, one common effect of bringing forth a new family member in a precipitous fashion can be postpartum depression. Sometime the sadness does not go that far, but mom’s who have experienced the intense labor can feel a sense of loss in that the miraculous event of their long awaited delivery happened way too fast. Let’s face it. The calm, controlled birth plan you had envisioned did not happen. 

You may feel fear already, in anticipation of what your delivery will be like next time. You may have comments from others, “You don’t know how lucky you are to have had such a short labor!” But really, no one except you can explain the intensity and physical or mental shock - often both - a precipitous birth can create.

For real, you will now ask your partner hundreds of questions about what went on during the delivery. You will find out that you swore more than a Quentin Tarantino film at the nursing staff.

It’s not the delivery method that counts - it’s the package you receive at the end. The little angel that you have waited for is now here, in your arms and you didn’t have to wait long at all!

3 Soon Afterward It Ain't Rosy

The abundant energy and adrenalin that your body had just a short while ago will now leave you as fast as the fans clear the grandstands after a sporting event. Sure, you will be happy to have the quiet of your own room, but if you chose to have your baby in a hospital setting, you will have a few interruptions yet.

What’s in store? Nurses will come, what feels like immediately and for sure too often, in the interest of you and babe’s well being. For certain, they will want to make sure you and baby are starting the breastfeeding off on the right foot. It may seem a bit early to you - and a bit intrusive. Many nurses want to see that adorable little munchkin of yours latch on right way. But that is not always the idea you and your brain have in mind, and here’s why:

You may just want to sleep for hours. You may not be able to keep your eyes open. You know, you have just performed and worked like an extreme athlete!

You may not feel like nursing. Some moms who have had the shock of a precipitous birth need a bit of time to come back to earth. You could be bruised, torn and sore. Don’t be afraid to take pain medication that the nurse may offer. The birth may be over but your body isn’t finished doing it’s work yet.

Your newborn may not feel like nursing. Don’t feel rejected. Some children of precipitous birth ingest amniotic fluid as they make their way through the birth canal. As a result of the rapid exit, mucous may still be in the lungs because there wasn’t enough time for it to be expelled.

You will most likely experience contractions and pain for some time after the birth. As things go, the body has to take time to settle back down into a normal state.

Baby may not look all that pretty. Considering the fact that your newborn flew through the birth canal like a motocross rider on a bumpy all terrain trail, chances are he or she will most likely have a few bruises to show for it.

You will still look pregnant and feel it, too. Don’t worry, once the uterus has had a chance to shrink, you will be on your way to looking and feeling fit in no time. Relax and let it all happen. If you find that your body needs some help getting back into shape, wearing a belly band or support underwear after birth can encourage the stomach muscles to return to their normal state.

2 The Recovery Mission Is Possible

Recovery after a feat such as childbirth is not an instant affair. Don’t expect right away to be able to perform the routines of a gymnast. Don’t even expect to be able to do your normal day to day activities. Listen, be kind to yourself and take every spare moment you can for recovery.

If you have just welcomed your first addition to your family, take this piece of wisdom and run with it. Sleep when baby sleeps! Quite possibly, you will feel that your days will turn into nights and the nights into days. But don’t despair. To be sure, all will settle down and the routine that you and baby choreograph will eventually turn out to be a medal winner.

If there are already children in the house, now is the time to put into place the quiet times you practised with them before their new sibling arrived. Older siblings can quietly read a book in their rooms while you and baby take an afternoon nap. 

And don’t be shy! When friends offer to collect the kids and head to the park, take them up on it and catch some much needed shut eye. Have no doubt, adequate sleep will ensure the rest of the recovery takes place with Olympic speed.

Your body will be feeling fatigue, and quite rightly so, you will begin to encounter other unfamiliar developments. If you experienced severe tears or required stitches as a result of the precipitous labor, you will learn that an ice pack may become your best friend for a few days. Lacerations in the cervix or perineum may make sitting uncomfortable. 

Keep the vaginal area clean. When you go to the bathroom, take a squeeze bottle of warm water to wash afterwards. Speaking from experience, after the whirlwind labors I had, I can offer this wisdom. This tip helps immensely! Use it.

We’ve all heard about those famous Kegel exercises! Now is the time to put them into practise. That’s it. Practise them 3 times a day for 3 months and you will be in top shape in no time. Seriously, these simple moves can be done anywhere, anytime. At first you may only be able to hold your vaginal muscles tight for a count of 3 or 4, but do these diligently and before you know it, you will be counting to 10 with ease. This simple exercise will help your muscles to heal more quickly.

Within a few days of giving birth, you may begin to experience hard, painful breasts. By now, if you have chosen to breastfeed, all should be flowing smoothly. Of course, our bodies have an agenda of their own and complications can occur. If you do begin to suffer from extremely painful breasts - ouch! - alternate hot and cold compresses. 

A hot water bottle works wonders for the pain, and ice packs will help the flow of milk if there are any blocked ducts. As always, seek medical attention if you are really in pain, for advice on what medication you can take while breastfeeding. Lactation consultants can be a great help to new moms, too.

Wear cotton undies and loose fitting pants at least for the first few weeks of mommy hood.

Drink plenty of water and eat lots of fruit and veggies to keep all systems go.

Your hormones are adjusting every day as a new mom; give yourself a break. Physical and emotional changes are to be expected. Take a nice hot bath - it will help those sore breasts, too!

Before you know it you will be joining the gang on a park excursion!

1 Preparation For Labor 

So of course, there is absolutely no way to anticipate a precipitous labor but as the day draws near, we should all prepare ourselves for the big race.

In the first, second and third trimesters, it is always wise to be sure we are keeping fit. It is important to do simple exercises geared towards pregnancy. For certain, we all begin this journey with different levels of fitness and only you and your doctor or caregiver can determine what level of exercise you can continue to do throughout the pregnancy. 

Bear in mind that even a minimal amount of exercise is a must at all times. Many of us suffer from those wonderful pregnancy gifts of nausea or fatigue and some experience additional complications such as gestational diabetes or migraines. Any exercise you can do, whether it be a walk or weight training, keep in mind that you are doing the groundwork in preparation for the third trimester triathlon!

If possible, take childbirth preparation classes. The knowledge that you will gain on the topics of exercise, breastfeeding and newborn care will prove to be invaluable. I admit, my childbirth class did not prepare me for the precipitous delivery adventure ahead, but this group of parents to be can offer support - and who knows - you may even make new park buddies.

With all of the late pregnancy nesting instincts that kick in, giving us crazy amounts of energy and the extreme desire to clean, we often take the last few days of our expedition to traverse peaks and hike rock cliffs in the cracks and crevices of our own homes! Who knew we would have the agility to get down on our hands and knees to scrub corners that have not been scrubbed that well in eons. Or the balance to climb ladders in order to wash curtains?

Okay, so the house is ready. How about the hospital bag or the home birth kit? Keeping two bags packed (one for you and one for the precious bundle to arrive), is a for sure way to feel that you are ready to jump on that crazy train at a moment’s notice. Items such as extra socks and lip balm will be indispensable.

For real, you will have no qualms enlisting the help of your loving partner in making and freezing meals ahead of time.

And laundry? I personally just had to make sure every last sock in the house was washed, dried, matched and put away before my due date arrived.

Most importantly, rest. Make no mistake, you will find that taking the time to rest is easier said than done once the nesting instinct kicks in - but you will be glad you did once the delivery begins.

Prepare as best you can, but also take the time to just be; and be thankful!

Once the big day arrives, enjoy those precious moments with your significant other and the newest addition to your family. Savour the miracle of birth and the joy that you will now have for years to come. Congratulations!

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