Learn More about Precipitous Labors and How to Manage them
While only a very small percentage of labors are fast, very few expectant mothers have not thought about what they would do if the baby came very quickly. The medical term for a fast labor is “precipitous” and is defined by any labor that lasts for 3 hours or less from start to finish. These are often the stories that make headlines in the paper, such as “Baby born on Expressway” or “Father delivers baby at home.”
Precipitous labors do happen, but parents should be cautioned about several things before they assume they will have fast labor and get to their place of birth too soon.
1. Precipitous labors are much more common with second or later babies. It is very unlikely that a mother will have a very fast (3 hours or less) labor with her first baby.
2. Exact statistics of precipitous labors are not known, but some preliminary data shows the percentages to be roughly 2% of all labors. This information should also reinforce to expectant parents that their own chances of a very fast labor are quite small.
3. Mothers with a previous precipitous labor are more likely to have another.
4. Mothers with previous precipitous labor have several options with subsequent pregnancies and should not be compelled to be induced to “control the labor.”
How to Identify a Precipitious/Fast Labor
Fast labors can be difficult for mothers to identify. One of the key factors in precipitous labors is that not only do they tend to start out with very regular and very intense contractions, but the intensity also builds quickly. Many mothers will even notice that it feels almost as if every contraction gets stronger and builds in intensity from the last one. This labor can be referred to as a “deer in headlights” labor since mothers can seem almost overcome by the intensity of contractions in such a short period of time both during and immediately following labor.
What to do if you are having a Precipitious Labor
If you suspect you are having a fast labor, it is crucial to get help as quickly as possible. If you have a spouse, friend or neighbor who can get to you immediately it is much better than being alone. If you live nearby to the hospital, it is important to leave as quickly as possible. Do not be overly concerned if you have all of your bags or items with you as getting to your place of birth is more important than if you remember to pack your nightgown or camera!
If you are feeling an urge to bear down and you are still at home, it is better to call 911 for phone assistance and await the EMT’s/paramedics than risk a birth in your car. Unlock your front door and stay close to the entrance in a well-lit, warm room. Follow the instructions for emergency birth if the EMT’s do not arrive when the baby’s head is visible.
What options to consider if you have already had a Precipitous Labor
It is not uncommon to hear that providers recommend induction for mothers with a history of precipitous labor. While this does help to ensure the baby comes out in the right place, it does not at all guarantee tha labor will be less frenetic or painful or even that your provider can prevent tearing that can occur in a fast labor. It is important to discuss your desires and options with your provider well before your due date.
Remember to factor in the distance you need to travel as well as if your cervix has begun to dilate before labor. If they can read the possible and definite signs of labor, most mothers who live within a reasonable distance to their place of birth, (less than 30 minutes) should have no difficulty getting there on time. In fact, some mothers who have had previous fast labor will choose to leave for the hospital as soon as their contractions start.
Are you at risk for a Fast/Precipitous Labor?
While there is no way to be completely sure if you will have a fast labor, here are several things to keep in mind. If you have already given birth, the likelihood of your next labor being much faster is higher. If your previous labor(s) were less than 3 hours, you are much more likely to have another precipitous labor. If you have a strong family history, some experts believe that this might also increase your chances of a precipitous labor. For example, having two sisters and your mother all having fast labors, while no guarantee, might be something to pay attention to.
Have you had a fast labor? What happened? Share it with us.