Labour Complications

All pregnant mothers want the best during and after childbirth. Sometimes, however, things don’t go as planned. Learning on what to expect at every stage is therefore important. There are a number of complications that can occur when it’s finally time to have your baby. Let’s learn some more on these and what you can expect when you have labour complications.

Types of Labour Complications:

Premature Labour

Not all pregnancies last the full 40 weeks, some babies can’t wait to be in their mother’s arms so they arrive early. When you get into labour before you reach 37 weeks, it is called premature labour. A child born before this period is premature and may have underdeveloped lungs, respiratory distress or digestive problems. The child’s body may also be unable to heat itself in such instances.

Failure to Progress

This is usually seen in first-time mothers. Here, labour tends to last longer than expected and can easily put the mother and unborn child at risk of infection, especially if the amniotic fluid has ruptured or the waters have been broken in labour induction. See more on premature labour here. 

Breech Presentation

Breach occurs when your child comes feet or buttocks first, unlike the normal position. Read more on Breech position.

Normal Position for Your Child to Be when In Labour:

  • Head down facing mother’s back
  • Chin tucked away in the chest
  • Back of the head facing the pelvis

Read more about your baby’s position before birth here.

Amniotic Fluid Embolism

This is when amniotic fluid that protects the baby in the uterus sips through the mother’s blood stream. It’s a dangerous condition for both mother and unborn child. Amniotic fluid embolism occurs during delivery or in the postpartum period. Signs of an amniotic fluid embolism include:

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Excess fluid in the lungs 
  • Sudden low blood pressure
  • Sudden failure of the heart to effectively pump blood 
  • Life-threatening problems with blood clotting 
  • Bleeding from the uterus, caesarean incision or intravenous (IV) sites
  • Altered mental status
  • Chills
  • Rapid heart rate or disturbances in the rhythm of the heart rate
  • Fetal distress, such as a slow heart rate, or other fetal heart rate abnormalities
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Uterine Bleeding (Postpartum Haemorrhage)

This is excessive bleeding after child birth. It can be caused by a tear in the uterus, lack of the placenta being fully delivered or poor blood clotting. Factors that can put you at risk of uterine bleeding are such as:

  • Multiple pregnancy
  • Gestational hypertension or preeclampsia
  • Having many previous births
  • Prolonged labour
  • Infection
  • Obesity
  • Medications to induce labour
  • Medications to stop contractions (for preterm labour)
  • Use of forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery
  • General anaesthesia

Umbilical Cord Compression

This complication affects mostly the unborn child. it may happen during the last weeks of pregnancy or during labour. This is when the umbilical cord gets flattened by pressure. It is a risky condition and requires immediate medical attention.

Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM)

This is when the amniotic sac ruptures before labour begins. It a common complication seen in 8 to 10 percent of all pregnancies. Causes include:

  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Previous preterm delivery
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Cigarette smoking during pregnancy


Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.

Last reviewed March 2019

Sources: in.pampers, theblueroom.bupa, chop, mottchildren, emedicine

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