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Did your doctor let your labor go on too long?

This is it. The event you have been waiting for throughout your pregnancy. Your contractions started, and you arrive at the hospital ready to meet the newest addition to your family. Your doctor comes in to check on you and the baby. If your contractions and dilation have progressed far enough, the staff on the maternity ward makes you as comfortable as possible.

Now, the wait begins. If this is your first child, medical sources expect your labor to last anywhere from 12 to 18 hours. If this is not your first child, you can expect to cut that time in half. Of course, when it comes to babies being born, the official timetables don't always apply. Some women are lucky enough to have quick labors, but others could face significantly longer periods of time.

When enough is enough

You may have been one of those moms whose labor continued long past what the experts estimate as safe. After anywhere from 18 to 24 hours of labor, or 16 hours if you are having twins, your obstetrician may begin using words like "failure to progress" and "prolonged latent labor." Regardless of what your doctor may call it, you may feel as though enough is enough and just want to be done.

The doctor and your nurses should monitor your progress and your baby throughout your labor, but once you reach this stage, the monitoring may increase. They will check the frequency and strength of your contractions. If not already done, your doctor should attempt to determine why your labor is taking so long. The most common reasons include the following:

  • The birth canal is too small to allow the baby to pass through it.
  • The birth canal may be normal, but the baby is too large to pass through it.
  • Your contractions aren't strong enough.
  • Your baby isn't in the right position.

Depending on the circumstances, your obstetrician may need to take different actions. You may need Pitocin to strengthen and speed up your contractions. Your doctor may use forceps or a vacuum to deliver your baby if he or she is already in the birth canal. If your baby is too large, you may require a C-section. It's also possible that your doctor will simply order something to help you relax and let you rest.

When the danger increases

The danger to your baby increases the longer you are in labor. The following complications could arise necessitating an emergency delivery:

  • Your baby's heart rhythm becomes abnormal.
  • Your doctor discovers you have a uterine infection.
  • Your baby's oxygen levels drop to dangerous levels.
  • Your doctor finds that the amniotic fluid contains abnormal substances.

If your doctor continues to insist that you give your labor more time, this only continues to increase the risks to your child. Also, if medical personnel fail to continue to monitor your situation carefully, irreparable damage could occur to your newborn before any further action is taken to deliver your baby.

Even if this was your first child, you might have instinctively known that something wasn't right, but your concerns were shrugged off by medical personnel who claimed to "know better" than you. If your baby suffered harm because you did not receive the appropriate care when your labor went on too long, you and your baby might have been the victim of medical malpractice.

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