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What Is Abnormal Labor And Can It Get In The Way Of A Normal Delivery?
  • Most first-time moms aim for a normal spontaneous delivery or vaginal birth due to its health benefits for both mother and child. However, not all birth plans go the way you want it to happen — if you experience abnormal labor, you can end up getting an emergency cesarean section (C-section).

    What is abnormal labor?

    Dystocia, also called abnormal labor, is the failure to progress labor during childbirth. “Nag-le-labor ka, hindi nagtuloy-tuloy ‘yung pagbuka ng kwelyo ng matres. Or hindi bumaba ‘yung ulo ng bata. Sasabihin sa’yo ng doktor, mag-c-CS na tayo misis kasi [may] dystocia,” explains Dr. Maynila Domingo, an obstetrician-gynecologist who specializes in maternal fetal medicine at Manila Medical Center, during the third episode of SmartParenting.com.ph’s How Po? titled “The New Normal In Pregnancy And Childbirth.”

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    When does abnormal labor occur?

    Before you are diagnosed with abnormal labor, it is important to understand the four stages of labor. The first stage of labor is when your cervix begins to open. It is divided in three phases: early labor phase, active labor phase, and transition phase.

    Early labor phase

     During this phase, mild contractions occur every five to 30 minutes, with each contraction lasting 30 to 45 seconds, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). The early labor phase can last for eight to 12 hours and you can expect your water to break at this time. You might also notice a clear, pink, or slightly bloody discharge coming from your vagina, says Mayo Clinic. This may be the mucus plug blocking the cervical opening.


    Active phase

     It is at this stage that your cervix dilates from 4cm to 7cm. Your contractions will become more intense and regular — usually lasting between 45 to 60 seconds, with three- to five-minute intervals, according to the APA. Once you get to this phase, it is best to head to the hospital.

    Transition phase

     This is the shortest phase — lasting 15 minutes to an hour — but it is also the “toughest and most painful part of labor,” according to March of Dimes. During this time, your cervix will dilate from 8cm to 10cm, and contractions continue for 60 to 90 seconds within 30-second to two-minute intervals.

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    The second stage of labor is when your baby is about to be born. The doctor will want you to push and it can last anywhere between 20 minutes to a few hours.

    The third stage of labor is when the placenta — which supplies your baby with oxygen and food in the womb — Is delivered.

    The fourth stage of labor is all about the mother and newborn recovering after birth.

    According to Healthline, most pregnant women will go through these stages without any problems. However, some may experience abnormal labor in any of the first three stages.

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    Types of abnormal labor patterns

     There are two examples of abnormal labor patterns, says Healthline: “arrest of dilation,” and “arrest of descent.”

    “Meron kaming ine-expect na rate ng pagbuka ng kwelyo. Kung na-admit ka at 6cm ka na, at unang pagbubuntis mo, iniisip natin, siguro sa apat na oras, 10cm na ‘yun. Kapag hindi niya nasusunod ‘yung expected rate ng pagbuka or pagbaba ng ulot ng bata, mag-a-allow ng konting oras ng pag-observe,” Dr. Domingo says. If the cervix hasn’t dilated during these hours, it means labor has stopped. This is arrest of dilation.

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    On the other hand, arrest of descent occurs when the head of your baby remains in the same place in the birth canal during several hours of labor. This signifies that the baby has not moved farther down the birth canal, even after the cervix is completely dilated.

    “Kapagka lumipas na ‘yung oras ng observation [at] ‘di pa rin nagbabago ‘yung labor progress, ma-c-CS ka,” Dr. Domingo says.

    As much as possible, doctors only perform a cesarean section when needed. “But remember, ang pasyente po dito, hindi lang ikaw, pati si baby. Dalawa kayong mino-monitor,” Dr. Domingo says. “We only do cesarean if there is an indication (like abnormal labor) — kung kailangan talaga.”


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    If you're pregnant and have questions on pregnancy and childbirth during the pandemic, you can watch the third episode of our How Po? live webinars below:

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