Understanding labour and delivery complications - the basics
What are the common labour and delivery complications?
A pregnancy that has progressed without any apparent problems can still give way to complications during delivery. Here are some of the most common concerns.
Preterm labour and premature delivery
One of the greatest dangers a baby can encounter is to be born too early, before the baby's body systems are mature enough to ensure survival. The lungs, for example, may not be able to breathe air, or the baby's body may not generate enough heat to keep warm.
A full-term pregnancy normally lasts about 38 to 40 weeks. Labour contractions before 37 weeks of pregnancy is called preterm labour. A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is considered a premature baby, at risk of complications of prematurity, such as immature lungs, respiratory distress and digestive problems.
Prolonged labour (failure to progress)
A small percentage of women, mostly first-time mothers, may experience a labour that lasts too long, sometimes called ‘failure to progress’. Both the mother and baby are at risk of several complications, including infections, if the amniotic sac ruptures (the ‘waters break’).
‘Presentation’ refers to the part of the baby that will appear first from the birth canal. In the weeks before your due date, the foetus usually drops lower in the uterus. Ideally, for labour, the baby is positioned head-down, facing the mother's back, with its chin tucked in to its chest and the back of the head ready to enter the pelvis. That way, the smallest possible part of the baby's head leads the way through the cervix and into the birth canal. This normal presentation is called vertex (head-down)
Because the head is the largest and least flexible part of the baby, it's best for the head to lead the way into the birth canal. That way, there's little risk that the baby's body will make it through the birth canal, but that the...