Labor Complications | Methodist Hospital | UnityPoint Health

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Labor Complications

While labor complications are rare, many pregnant women still worry about them. And if they occur during your pregnancy or delivery, it can be alarming.

At UnityPoint Health – Methodist Birthing Center, our specialists are on-site and prepared to handle the unexpected as it happens. We know that being aware of what can happen may ease your fears and help you feel better prepared.

Labor Complications: What You Need to Know

Labor isn't always picture-perfect, but serious complications don't happen frequently. Many labor complications can be handled with just a few changes to your birth plan. Here's what will happen if you encounter these common labor complications:

Labor doesn't progress

In some cases, your contractions aren't strong enough to move the baby down, or your cervix isn't dilating. Your doctor may tell you that your labor isn't progressing. Solutions may include:

  • Medications: If the contractions aren't strong enough, your doctor may hook you up to an intravenous (IV) drip. Your provider can administer Pitocin, a synthetic version of a hormone called oxytocin. The medicine will strengthen your contractions.
  • C-section: If your labor still does not progress, your doctor may do a cesarean birth. In this surgical procedure, your doctor quickly delivers your baby to protect you and your child.

Your baby doesn't tolerate labor

If the fetal heart monitor shows your baby's heart is beating at an irregularly fast pace, your doctor may have concerns that your baby is not tolerating labor.

Doctors can identify what healthy heart patterns look like on the fetal heart monitor screen. They know what precautions to take to regulate your baby's heart rate.

You and your doctor can decide on next steps, including:

  • Natural labor: If your baby's oxygen level is fine, then your doctor may allow you to proceed with natural labor.
  • C-section: If oxygen levels are low, your doctor will most likely deliver your baby by cesarean.

Forceps or vacuum delivery

Sometimes, your baby has crowned, but you are too tired to continue pushing, or the baby's heart rate has dropped. Your doctor may opt to use a vacuum extractor or forceps, which are tools to help you give birth to your baby. This method may be faster than C-section delivery, and there is minimal risk to you and your baby.

Breech delivery

A breech baby is one whose bottom or feet are situated to emerge first instead of his/her head. In most situations, your doctor will be able to detect that your baby is breech during one of your prenatal appointments. Your provider may attempt to turn the baby manually before your due date.

Sometimes babies unexpectedly turn right before labor. If you arrive to the Birthing Center in labor and your baby is breech, your doctor may choose to perform a C-section.

Preterm labor 

If you have labor symptoms before week 37, it may be preterm labor. Labor may stop on its own, or you may need special care. Call your provider right away if you think you are experiencing labor too early. Your provider can decide if you need to go to the hospital or get other care.

Our Birthing Center has specially trained obstetric (OB) hospitalists available 24/7. These doctors are experts in identifying signs of labor. If you need to come in, they'll check your condition, work with your provider and get you the care you need.

Our Specialized Nursery

Rarely, a baby needs special care. About 12% of all babies in the U.S. are born prematurely (early). Others may have difficulties during delivery or show signs of a problem in their first few days.

Methodist has a neonatologist (a doctor specializing in care for newborns who are premature, small or have serious complications) available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If your baby requires more advanced care, our certified Level II Nursery with Extended Neonatal capabilities cares for babies born at 32 weeks' gestation or later.

We have equipment designed specifically for infants, with staff specially trained in newborn care and conditions. Larger rooms also are available to accommodate twins.

Contact the Birthing Center

You can call 309-672-4852 to schedule a tour of the Birthing Center. Tours are held:

  • Mondays  at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Wednesdays  at 5 p.m.
  • Fridays at 10 a.m.

For information about childbirth preparation classes, see our Classes and Events page or call 309-671-2522. Preregister now to reserve your space.