Complications of Labor And Delivery - The Basics

Complications of Labor And Delivery - The Basics

This is it! The moment has come for which your partner has been preparing for the last 40 weeks or so. Hopefully, you have gone through all the routine checkups and screening and now expecting to welcome a healthy baby. Most pregnancies conclude without any complications.

However, no matter how smoothly some pregnancies go, yet they experience complications during the labor and delivery. According to WHO, nearly five women die every hour following complications developed during labor and delivery. This accounts for nearly 45,000 deaths every year that translates to 17 percent of the total global deaths.

Although the team of doctor will be present on the spot for monitoring each and every step of labor, you must know the overview of complications you might face during the delivery process. Even you have crossed all the complications of pregnancy such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and miscarriage, yet you are exposed to complications when your due date is near.

Here we will briefly discuss the list of some of the common pregnancy and labor complications.

1. Preterm Labor

Preterm labor is referred to a period of labor that starts before the 37th week of pregnancy. And what makes it more dreadful for the parents is that preterm labor can start as early as 20th week in the second trimester. The earlier the labor begins, the riskier the birth. In fact, if your child is delivered prematurely, he or she can face a number of challenges.

India shares the largest burden of premature birth in the world contributing with 3.6 million births every year. This is 23.6 percent of the total 15 million global preterm births.

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Premature Babies - Basic Questions and AnswersPremature Babies - Basic Questions and Answers

2. Breech position

A breech position is when a baby’s feet are positioned to be delivered instead of the head, which should actually be opposite the case for a normal delivery. Mostly, in this case, the doctor will recommend going against the vaginal delivery if the baby shows signs of distress or it is too big to pass through the birth canal.

Often when the breech position is detected a few weeks earlier, the doctor may try to change the position and deliver the baby normally. But if the baby doesn’t switch to normal position, the doctor will recommend undergoing cesarean delivery.

3. Placenta problems

Though most of the placenta issues are detected before the birth during routine check-ups, issues can also occur during the labor. A woman might suffer from placenta previa, a condition where the placenta covers all or part of the cervix. One could also experience placenta abruption in which the placenta detaches from the uterine wall too early. These conditions can cause severe blood loss. Often cesarean delivery is recommended in these cases.

4. Bleeding problems

Even you have successfully delivered the child, excessive bleeding can occur, a condition known as postpartum hemorrhage. This is common in c-section deliveries while it can also occur during vaginal birth. Factors such as multiple births, induced labor and pulling of the placenta can increase the chances of excessive bleeding.

According to WHO, postpartum hemorrhage remains the biggest factor behind maternal deaths accounting for 37 percent of all the cases.

5. Premature rupture of membranes

Normally, during or before delivery, the membranes in the uterus ruptures and releases amniotic fluid. This is commonly referred to as water breaking. Often the membranes rupture too early before 37 weeks, that could expose the baby to infection. In this case, cesarean delivery can be performed.

Also Read

Causes and Treatment of Premature Rupture of MembranesCauses and Treatment of Premature Rupture of Membranes

6. Fetal Distress

Fetal distress can occur due to umbilical cord issues, infection, and medications during the labor. This is why fetal monitoring during the delivery is extremely important. These include monitoring the heart rate of the baby and bowel movement.

7. Prolonged labor

Normally, it affects a small percentage of women, especially the first time mothers. It is also known as ‘failure to progress’. Prolonged labor can put both the mother and the baby at risk of several complications including infection due to rupture of the amniotic sac (water breaking) for a long time. Cesarean delivery remains the last resort in this case. Almost a third case of prolonged labor results in c-section delivery.

8. Low birth weight

Low birth weight can occur due to numerous reasons including poor nutrition, use of alcohol and smoking during pregnancy. Most premature babies have low birth weight and this can lead to several complications in the future course of baby’s life. The complications include learning disabilities, heart and respiratory infections and even blindness.

How can a woman prevent complications of labor and delivery?

Not all complication can be prevented. But there are some preventable tips that may reduce your risks of getting complications during labor and delivery. These are:

  • The first important thing you can do for a healthy baby is to get early and adequate prenatal care. The best prenatal care begins as soon as you discover that you are pregnant. The goal of prenatal care is to provide regular health check-ups (every couple of weeks) by doctors or nurses throughout the course of pregnancy. It also promotes a healthy lifestyle which in turn increases your chances of delivering a healthy baby.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, fiber and lean protein. (Check healthy pregnancy diet here)
  • Quit smoking if you are a regular smoker as it can trigger preterm labor.
  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs.
  • Some researches have also found a link between gum disease and premature birth. So keep your teeth clean by brushing and flossing them daily.
  • Keep a check on your weight gain. A woman with normal weight before pregnancy should gain between 11-16 kgs during the course of gestation.
  • If you are taking any medication before pregnancy, ask your doctor if you should continue using them.
  • Reduce your stress levels. Listen to some music and do light exercises to keep your mood refresh.

These are just basic information. The best source of information will always be your doctor. In this case, a gynecologist, who can better explain about complications and guide you through.


1. common complications of pregnancy(2017, January 31). nichd read more
2. Pregnancy Complications(2018, April 27). CDC read more
3. Most Common Pregnancy Complications(2017, April 26). American pregnancy Association read more
4. Breech Births(2015, August). American pregnancy Association 
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