Prolonged Labor | Morris James LLP – JDSupra – JD Supra

Prolonged labor, also known as a failure to progress, occurs when a woman’s labor lasts an atypical amount of time. Although there are different definitions for what constitutes prolonged labor, for first-time mothers, labor has historically been considered prolonged if it lasts for approximately 20 hours or more. For women who have given birth before, labor has historically been considered prolonged if it lasts 14 hours or more. Prolonged labor can be a warning sign that the mother or baby has been injured, or an indication to change the delivery plan. Sometimes, prolonged labor can cause stress on the baby, leading to serious injuries. Thus, a healthcare provider needs to carefully monitor the mother’s labor progress. When healthcare providers fail to carefully monitor labor progress, or appreciate the risks of a prolonged labor, they may commit medical malpractice. 
To understand prolonged labor, it is important to understand the different stages of labor. 
When a mother is in the first stage of labor, there are two phases: the latent phase and the active phase. During the latent phase, contractions typically become more frequent and stronger. During this process, the cervix begins to open and thin out. The second phase of the first stage of labor (also called the active phase) occurs when the cervix opens from 4 to 7 centimeters. During this time, contractions become longer, stronger, and more frequent. 
During the second stage of labor, a woman’s cervix is completely open and the mother typically begins to push the baby for delivery. Typically, the second stage is shorter than the first stage and may take between 30 minutes and three hours (depending on a number of factors, including the number of prior pregnancies).
During the third and final stage of labor, a mother will deliver the placenta (the organ that nourishes the baby during pregnancy). This stage typically lasts just a few minutes. 
Prolonged labor typically occurs in the first or second stage of labor, and it can have a number of different causes. Generally speaking, prolonged labor may occur during any phase of labor when: 
In those situations, the healthcare providers need to recognize the issue and treat the mother and baby appropriately so that the baby can be delivered safely. 
When a woman’s labor is prolonged, the healthcare providers should evaluate the potential causes and treat those in a timely manner to protect the mother and baby. That may require that the healthcare team move to prompt delivery to avoid harm to the mother and baby. If the healthcare team fails to recognize a prolonged labor, the mother or baby can suffer injuries.
Healthcare providers can use different methods to attempt to expedite labor and delivery. Those include:
If one or more of these interventions is attempted, the healthcare team must monitor the mother and her baby continuously. That way, the healthcare providers can make sure that the baby and the mother remain safe. If there are any potential warning signs that the baby or mother cannot tolerate ongoing labor, the healthcare team must recognize that, and change the delivery plan to expedite the baby’s delivery. That may require the healthcare providers to proceed with a C-section to minimize the risk of injury to the mother and baby. A medical provider’s failure to monitor and assess delivery options at this stage could constitute medical malpractice.
In situations where a mother is experiencing prolonged labor, the healthcare providers need to monitor the mother and baby carefully. It is important for the healthcare providers to monitor the mother’s contractions (both in frequency and strength), the mother’s vital signs, and the baby’s heart rate and responses to labor. When prolonged labor persists despite interventions, the health of the mother or baby may be at risk. A failure to monitor when indicated can cause significant injuries to the mother and her baby and may be evidence of medical malpractice. 
Prolonged labor increases the risk of certain injuries to the mother, including:
Prolonged labor also increases the risk of complications for the baby, including: 
These are potential signs of decreased blood flow and oxygen to the baby’s brain and vital organ systems. If these persist long enough during a prolonged labor, a baby can suffer a brain injury that can cause significant motor and cognitive delays or even death. Click here to read more about birth injuries a baby can suffer when medical providers commit medical malpractice.
One type of brain injury that a baby can suffer as a result of prolonged labor is cerebral palsy, or CP, which is a neurological condition caused by a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain. If a child has CP, the child can develop impairments in motor skills, muscle tone, and movement. The child may also have learning disabilities, cognitive impairments, issues with speech, lung issues, low bone density, and limited vision or hearing. Unfortunately, while medical providers can offer treatments for CP, there is no known cure for it. When a child has CP, the child may have to live with lifelong complications. 
Given the severity of this condition, it is crucial that the delivery team monitor the mother and her baby during delivery carefully so that, if there is a prolonged labor, the team can intervene and deliver the baby timely and safely. If the healthcare providers fail to recognize and intervene appropriately to protect the health and safety of the mother and baby, and if they are injured, the medical providers may have committed medical malpractice. 
The delivery of a child should be a wonderful experience. But, when a woman has a prolonged labor, and when she or her baby are injured, it can be emotionally traumatizing, and the family may now face significant medical costs associated with care and treatment of the injured child. 
If you think that the healthcare team that treated you and your baby allowed your labor to progress too long, and if you think that caused an injury to you or your child, you should consider speaking to an attorney to determine whether you have a claim for medical malpractice. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer that has handled cases involving birth injuries can investigate your case, work with experts to support your claim, and fight to get you and your family answers and compensation to cover all expenses and costs.
See more »
DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.
© Morris James LLP var today = new Date(); var yyyy = today.getFullYear();document.write(yyyy + ” “); | Attorney Advertising
Refine your interests »
This website uses cookies to improve user experience, track anonymous site usage, store authorization tokens and permit sharing on social media networks. By continuing to browse this website you accept the use of cookies. Click here to read more about how we use cookies.
Back to Top
Explore 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards
Copyright © var today = new Date(); var yyyy = today.getFullYear();document.write(yyyy + ” “); JD Supra, LLC


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.