Precipitous Labour is commonly known as fast labour. While that might sound ideal, there can be a number of complications that can make this condition something to be aware of. The intention of this article is not to dramatize the issue or frighten anyone – merely to make you aware of the facts surrounding rapid labour and what to look out for.
1. What is Precipitous Labour?
The typical birth (if there is any such things!) is thought to last up to 18 hours. Precipitous Labour, however, is very quick and averages between three and five hours.
The three stages of birth (active labour, birthing and placenta delivery) will all take place within this small window of time. Doesn’t seem long, does it?
2. What causes Precipitous Labour?
There are a few factors that might make you a candidate for Precipitous Labour. These factors don’t necessarily guarantee it will occur, but when they operate together it becomes a more likely scenario.
- A powerful uterus (go girl!) that can contract using a lot of strength
- A smooth, compliant birth canal
- Any previous history of rapid labour
- A smaller than average baby
- Please note AGAIN that the presence of these factors does NOT guarantee Precipitous Labour.
3. What are the symptoms of Precipitous Labour?
Again, as per above, this is not a medical diagnosis. Generally speaking, women experiencing Precipitous Labour have the following symptoms, with no early warning signs of labour.
- VERY quick, intense contractions with almost no time to rest in between
- VERY strong pain that feels like one continuous contraction with no relief
- A sudden urge to push as the result of intense sensations of pressure that come with no warning
- VERY quick cervix dilation
4. What can go wrong in Preciptous Labour?
Throw your calm birth plan out the window! Fast labour is intense, dramatic and highly emotional. You can probably imagine everything you’ve learned about labour happening in very, very high speed and understand why this would be so stressful.
Precipitous Labour can mean that you may not make it to the hospital on time. We have an established idea of how long ‘normal’ labour takes and having fast labour throws that right out the window! (So many things being thrown out the window in this article! Look out!)
If things seem fast, wrong or just a little off – get in contact with the professionals sooner rather than later. Surrender the idea of the birth you thought you were going to have and focus on the one you’re having in the here and now.
5. What are the risks?
Your baby may participate in an unsterilized delivery if you didn’t make it to your planned birthing suite. This might lead to an infection. They could also potentially breathe in amniotic fluid. As the intention of this article is not to frighten or alarm you, merely to inform, there may be a wider range of complications that you could discuss with your birthing specialist.
If you have a fast labour you may find that you experience tearing, haemorrhaging, shock and a range of other medical complications.
6. What should I do if I am having a Precipitous Labour?
Try to be as in control as you possibly can. This is a crazy situation but there are small, minor things you can do. Calm breathing, meditation, focusing on positive thoughts – all of these things might only make a small amount of difference but they definitely matter.
In Australia, call 000 immediately. Don’t wait or question what’s going on – the worst thing that can happen if you call is that it’s a false alarm. Better safe than sorry.
Ask your partner or support person to make the necessary phone calls to other birthing support specialists so you can concentrate on you and your baby.
Lay either on your back or on your side in the recovery position as much as possible. Do not walk around or exert yourself.