Usually, labor and delivery Overview of Labor and Delivery Although each labor and delivery is different, most follow a general pattern. Therefore, an expectant mother can have a general idea of what changes will occur in her body to enable her to deliver... read more occur without any problems. Serious problems are relatively rare, and doctors can usually detect and treat them. Regular visits to a doctor or certified nurse midwife during pregnancy are important to have a healthy pregnancy and to detect problems if they occur. Some problems develop suddenly and unexpectedly, so pregnant women should call their doctor or midwife if something seems wrong (such bleeding, decreased fetal movement).
Examples of problems (complications) that can develop or become evident only after a pregnant women goes into labor or during delivery include:
Abnormal presentation, position, or lie of the fetus Fetal Presentation, Position, and Lie (Including Breech Presentation) During pregnancy, the fetus can be positioned in many different ways inside the mother's uterus. The fetus may be head up or down or facing the mother's back or front. At first, the fetus can... read more
Intraamniotic infection Intraamniotic Infection Intraamniotic infection is infection and resulting inflammation of the tissues around the fetus, such as the fluid that surrounds the fetus (amniotic fluid), the placenta, the membranes around... read more (infection and resulting inflammation of the tissues around the fetus)
Shoulder dystocia Shoulder Dystocia Shoulder dystocia occurs when one shoulder of the fetus lodges against a pregnant woman’s pubic bone or sacrum during deliver, and the baby is therefore caught in the birth canal. In shoulder... read more (the fetus's shoulder lodges against a woman's pubic bone, and the baby is caught in the birth canal)
Umbilical cord prolapse Umbilical Cord Prolapse Prolapse of the umbilical cord means that the cord precedes the baby through the vagina. When the umbilical cord prolapses, the fetus’s body may put pressure on the cord and thus cut off the... read more (the umbilical cord comes out of the birth canal before the baby)
Amniotic fluid embolism Amniotic Fluid Embolism Amniotic fluid embolism occurs when some amniotic fluid that contains cells or tissue from the fetus enters a pregnant woman’s bloodstream and causes a serious reaction. (Amniotic fluid is the... read more (the fluid that surrounds the fetus in the uterus enters a woman’s bloodstream, sometimes causing a life-threatening reaction)
Postpartum hemorrhage Excessive Uterine Bleeding at Delivery Excessive bleeding from the uterus refers to loss of more than 2 pints of blood or symptoms of significant blood loss that occur within 24 hours after childbirth. After the baby is delivered... read more (excessive uterine bleeding at delivery)
Placenta accreta Placenta Accreta Placenta accreta is a placenta with an abnormally firm attachment to the uterus. Having had a cesarean delivery, having placenta previa (when the placenta covers the cervix) in the current pregnancy... read more (a problem with the placenta that may be discovered during pregnancy or only after delivery of the baby)
When complications develop, alternatives to spontaneous labor and vaginal delivery may be needed. They include
Forceps or a vacuum device (called operative vaginal delivery Operative Vaginal Delivery Operative vaginal delivery is delivery using a vacuum extractor or forceps. A vacuum extractor consists of a small cup made of a rubberlike material that is connected to a vacuum. It is inserted... read more ) to deliver the baby
Timing of Labor and Delivery
The average length of pregnancy is 40 weeks, counted from the first day of the last menstrual period. The due date is set at 40 weeks, but this is an estimate. Most women do not deliver exactly on their due date, but some do.
Labor may start
If a baby is delivered too early or too late, there is a risk of health issues.
Labor may be early or late because a woman or fetus has a medical problem or the fetus is in an abnormal position Fetal Presentation, Position, and Lie (Including Breech Presentation) During pregnancy, the fetus can be positioned in many different ways inside the mother's uterus. The fetus may be head up or down or facing the mother's back or front. At first, the fetus can... read more .
Determining the length of pregnancy can be difficult because the precise date of conception often cannot be determined. Early in pregnancy, an ultrasound examination can help determine how far along the pregnancy is. In mid to late pregnancy, ultrasound examinations are less reliable in determining the length of pregnancy.