How Long is Too Long: Prolonged Second Stage Labor and the Risk of Injuries

How Long is Too Long: Prolonged Second Stage Labor and the Risk of Injuries

by / Wednesday, 23 September 2020 / Published in Birth Trauma
Mother holding a newborn baby.

When the time comes to welcome a child into the world, new parents want to be holding their new baby as quickly as possible. But going through labor isn’t always a quick and easy process.

Expectant mothers commonly wonder about how long labor is supposed to take, but every mother’s experience can be different. For example, labor and delivery for first-time mothers often takes longer than it does for mothers who have given birth at least once before.  It’s also important to note that there are three different stages of labor. Stage one of labor is the time during which dilation occurs, stage two labor is the stage when pushing occurs, and stage three is the afterbirth. Stage one labor is commonly the longest stage of labor, typically lasting 14-20 hours depending on whether or not a woman has given birth before. For stage two labor, 1-3 hours is considered normal.

But the desire for a quick labor isn’t only motivated by a desire to meet a new child or to minimize physical pain. The longer labor takes, the more likely it becomes that the child will experience problems like a lack of oxygen or physical trauma. During the second stage of labor, the baby should be carefully monitored to make sure there aren’t any signs of distress. If there are significant changes in the child’s heart rate, it could be a sign that intervention is needed to deliver the baby as quickly as possible, whether it’s by ordering a C-section or using birth-assisting tools like forceps or vacuum extractors.

Even under the best of circumstances, there are many different reasons why labor might slow down and be considered prolonged labor. Sometimes, the child is too large for the birth canal or is in a breech position. Weak contractions during stage one labor can also lead to a prolonged labor. Since the length of labor can significantly vary, it’s important for doctors to be carefully monitoring the situation for both the mother and the child. If a woman spends a longer-than-average amount of time pushing, doctors might not decide to intervene as long as progress is still being made and there are no signs of the baby being in distress.

If there is any reason to suspect that a baby is in distress during a prolonged labor, it’s very important for appropriate actions to be taken right away. A child could be in distress because of a lack of oxygen and the longer that loss of oxygen occurs, the more likely it is that serious, long-term effects will occur. If birth-assisting tools are needed to help the child, the child could be physically harmed if the tools aren’t used correctly.

The birth of a child is supposed to be a joyous occasion and finding out that your child was injured during delivery can be absolutely devastating. While some types of birth injuries can clear up either on their own or with treatment, others can have effects that last a lifetime and it’s crucial to make sure your child receives all the care they need.

If you believe your child was injured around the time of birth, contact a birth trauma lawyer as soon as possible. Even if you don’t begin to suspect that your child may have sustained a birth injury until they are a few years old, you may still have legal options. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’ve helped many people who have been in your shoes. Contact us today for help with your case.

Image: iStock / kieferpix