For most pregnant women, the thought of labor is terrifying. When you think about delivery, you feel joy and fear at the same time — you’re excited about seeing your baby, but scared of the pain and complications of delivery. That’s why most moms would prefer to have a quick labor, but that’s not always possible and knowing the early signs you’re going to have a long labor can help you prepare.
No one can guarantee how long or short any labor or delivery will be, but there are certain factors that can affect how things progress. A long or prolonged labor, as noted by the American Pregnancy Association (APA), is also called a failure to progress. It is defined as a labor lasting more than 20 hours for a first-time mother, or lasting more than 14 hours for a mom who’s delivered a baby before.
Baby Pedia noted that staying active and healthy, like taking regular walks and eating nutritious foods, could help in shortening your labor time. If you are feeling anxious about your labor and delivery, talk to your healthcare team about each and every aspect that is worrying you. It always helps to be mentally prepared and to know what possibilities may arise. Here are a few factors that can contribute to a long labor that you can discuss with your doctor if needed.
1. You Have Intense Lower Back Pain
Back pain is common during pregnancy, but if your pain is associated with your baby’s positioning, you might be in for a longer labor. Mary Gomez Chambers, a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) with Lone Tree OB-GYN, tells Romper that lower back pain felt with contractions could be a sign that your labor will last a while. She says that if your baby is positioned in a way where they are facing upwards into your abdomen, also called a “star gazer” or “sunny side up” position, this could cause back pain known as back labor.
Because this is not the optimal birthing position for your baby, labor could take longer. To get your baby into a better birthing position, Chambers suggests staying mobile during labor by sitting on a birthing ball, standing, or walking. She adds that you may even want to avoid an early epidural so you can stay active.
2. You're Carrying Multiple Babies
If you have more than one bun in your oven, you might be facing a prolonged labor. According to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, labor involving multiple babies is longer in comparison to that of a single baby because the cervix takes longer to dilate. While there isn’t an exact known reason as to why the labor is prolonged with multiples, the researcher hypothesized that it could be due to fetal malposition or the over extension of the uterus.
3. You Have Gestational Diabetes
Moms who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes may face a longer labor process. According to Baby Pedia, gestational diabetes can cause the baby to be bigger, a condition known as macrosomia. Big babies can have a tough time getting through the birth canal, which could prolong labor in some cases.
4. You're Super Stressed
It might be hard to do, but you should really try to relax during pregnancy because stress could play a part in how long your labor lasts. According to Your Natural Birth, moms who are stressed, worried, or anxious may not be able to produce the hormones they need to relax their pelvis for birth. When you are stressed out, your body and muscles tighten up, including the muscles you need to use to push out your baby.
Talking to your doctor about pain management and delivery procedures could help put your mind at ease and possibly help you relax enough where your labor progresses more smoothly.
5. You Have A Small Pelvis Or A Big Baby
If you are a tiny person to begin with, you may have a tougher time during labor. According to the APA, if your pelvis is too small for your baby to fit through, you may have cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD). The website explained that CPD occurs when your baby is awkwardly positioned, too big (due to diabetes or genetics), or if your pelvis is small or abnormally shaped. In these cases, labor can be prolonged or fail to progress, because it’s harder for your baby to get through the birth canal. If you have a big baby, or small pelvis, talk to your doctor about delivery options you might need.
6. You've Gotten An Epidural
When you go into labor, the pain of contractions is immense, so understandably, you’ll want relief. When that relief comes in the form of an epidural, noted Evidence Based Birth, it could prolong your labor. The article explained that extensive studies have found that women who get an epidural face longer labors and pushing time than those who don’t. Belly Belly mentioned that an epidural could block your ability to produce enough oxytocin during labor, which along with your restricted movement, could lead to a longer labor.
7. Your Age
Age plays a big part in fertility and pregnancy, but it can also be a factor in your labor and delivery time. According to Baby Pedia, moms who are younger than 15 or older than 35 may face a variety of pregnancy complications like gestational hypertension or placenta previa, which could contribute to longer labor time.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.