Also referred to as failure to progress, the American Pregnancy Association defines prolonged labor as deliveries that last 14 to 20 hours or longer. Both mother and baby face numerous risks when labor is prolonged, which is why medical staff must make the right decisions to ensure delivery is successful. Prolonged labor has numerous underlying causes, including multiple births.
The presence of multiple babies can actually weaken contractions, which makes it more difficult for a woman to give birth. Positioning in the womb can also be an issue with multiple births. One or more babies out of position will increase the length of time it takes for a woman to deliver. The mother's level of stress during pregnancy is another contributing factor to the failure to progress, as are certain medications known to impact the strength of contractions.
When faced with prolonged labor, many doctors utilize a wait and see approach. During this time, the woman is advised to walk, squat, stand, or assume other positions to induce birth. A warm bath can also be useful, both to relax the mother-to-be and to speed up the birthing process. At some point, a C-section may be recommended, specially when a baby is out of position or too large to deliver safely. A C-section entails making an incision into the abdomen to deliver the baby. Multiple births are also delivered via C-section on a frequent basis.
Without intervention, prolonged labor can develop into more serious complications. WebMD explains that prolonged labor is associated with increased rates of uterine infections and problems with amniotic fluids, which may contain unusual substances. Babies can also develop abnormal heart rhythms or experience dangerously low oxygen levels. The longer a delivery takes, the higher the chance that your doctor will perform a C-section to prevent your baby from experiencing these complications.