Julie Rackliffe Lucey, MS
Failure to progress occurs when effective labor contractions do not lead to delivery of the baby. Failure to progress can be diagnosed in spite of medical interventions. The cervix may not dilate or efface. Effacement is a thinning of the cervix in preparation for delivery. Failure-to-progress can also happen if the baby does not move down the birth canal.
Some labors will stall without a clear cause. Uterine contractions can become ineffective, widely spaced, or both. This can happen despite the best efforts of a laboring woman and those who support her.
Risk factors for failure to progress include:
The active phase of labor is defined by:
In this phase, the following would be signs that labor was not progressing as expected:
Failure to progress will not be diagnosed until after the active phase of labor has been achieved.
A monitor may be inserted into your uterus. The monitor is a small catheter with a device to measure the intensity of contractions. This will get more a accurate record of the quality and strength of your contractions. The monitor can count how many there are, how long they last, how powerful they are, and how much time goes by between each one.
Your doctor will talk with you about the best plan. Treatment options include:
Your water may be broken artificially using a tool made for that purpose.
If you have not had any pain relieving drugs and you are in pain, your doctor may suggest that you consider pain treatment. An example of pain treatment is an
epidural. An epidural numbs the abdomen and legs.
is a natural stimulant of the uterine muscle. It is used to improve the quality of contractions to help achieve adequate labor.
There is no known way to prevent failure to progress in labor.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Cunningham F, Leveno K.
William's Obstetrics. 23rd edition. New York, NY: Mcgraw-Hill, 2010.
Labor induction and cervical ripening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 14, 2013. Accessed March 12, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Andrea Chisholm, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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