Failure to Progress…according to THEIR clock

Failure to Progress…according to THEIR clock

How many birth stories have you heard? Well I have heard dozens, and one story is starting to sound a bit more commonplace then it ought… Does this chain of birth-events sound familiar to you?

1) Typically a first time mother,

2) Labors for a certain amount of hours, ironically predetermined as “too long,”

3) Only to find medical professionals classifying her labor as: “FAILURE TO PROGRESS,”

4) Only to find her labor ending in a c-section. (Often around dinner-time.)

After this series of above mentioned events, a new, and usually rather-disappointed mother, asks herself some seriously reflective questions:

1) Was my doctor right? Was my body really faulty and unable to labor properly?

2) Should my doctor really have been able to make the curtain call on my labor with such ambiguous reasoning?

3) Did I really “fail to progress,” or did I just “fail to progress” according to their progression clock?

As a medical professional, taught to be a critical thinker, I have a few questions of my own:

1) Why has labor been put into such a tight and confined box? And why is labor considered such a textbook event?  (When in actuality every woman’s birth experience varies remarkably…)

2) Do all labors, in all women, for all time, seriously follow the same model?? Do they all have to progress the same way? Are they all characterized by the same things?

3) Why if the baby is not showing any signs of trouble…do long labors have clinicians sitting on the edge of their seat desperate to do something?

4) Can labor actually stop- as this “FAILURE TO PROGRESS” classification suggests? Can a baby really remain in-uterus indefinitely, and never deliver?

5) If labor starts, can it really just stop? Are there any other animal species wherein labor begins, but then stops, leaving an animal pregnant forever, or reckoned dead from an eternal pregnancy?

6) If a labor really can and does “FAIL TO PROGRESS,” and a mother goes against medical advice to have a c-section, can it be implied the mother and baby would just die in a state of labor-limbo?

Labor limbo. Ah, I just coined the term…. An ironic synonym for this “FAILURE TO PROGRESS” phenomenon. Look around at the rest of nature- is there anywhere else you find such static as labor limbo? I’d venture out on a limb, and say, no…..

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4 Responses

  1. I have a question (which I’m sure you will know much better then I)… Didn’t women and babies use to die-even a century ago-from labors that didn’t progress, whether the baby got stuck or the baby didn’t come out? Just curious…also…with my last labor my water broke and my contractions stopped. After 4-5 months of preterm contractions they finally stopped when my water broke and they had to put me on pitocin. :OP I’m not sayin’…I’m just sayin’…lol!

    • I will clarify a couple of things….”Failure to progress” diagnosis does not have anything to do with a baby literally getting stuck. I am not addressing babies getting “stuck” while the woman is trying to push them out (this is often a shoulder dystocia), which happens very infrequently. This post speaks to the issue of thousands upon thousands of women whose labor efforts have been deemed “failures” and who are then wheeled into the operating room so the doctor can get the baby out for them. In the early previous century and prior the rate of women and babies dying was higher, but many other factors need to be taken into account to determine why. Presently, woman are most likely to die in/after childbirth from bleeding, infection, and eclampsia (high blood pressure that causes seizures). The leading cause of death in neonates is low-birth weight, congenital abnormalities and SIDS. The c-section being done for “failure to progress” does not prevent any of these things. The c-section can be a life-saving surgery! There is no doubt about that. But taking out a baby by surgery because a woman’s body is not complying with textbook rules does not seem like appropriate use of a potentially life-threatening surgery. True emergency use of the c-section is a lot more uncommon than we think.
      Pitocin is also a helpful drug at times. Nipple stimulation often does the same exact thing. I have seen it initiate/increase contractions every time it is done (it releases oxytocin, pitocin is its synthetic twin). The tragedy I am writing about is again, a woman not progressing “quickly enough” and the doctor deeming her labor “failure to progress” – subjecting mom and baby to a c-section.

      • By the way, after 52 hours of contractions I was holding my baby in my arms, and he was not delivered by surgery. Most doctors would have declared my labor “failure to progress” long before I hit the 50 hour mark. According to “standards of care” my baby should have been delivered the day I went into labor, not the third day of labor… which means I would have been a C-section if I was a patient of the vast majority of OB-GYNs’ in America.

  2. good thinking! I wish there were more delieveries with midwives only but close enough to a hospital for real emergencies. i am starting to believe a midwife is all you need (with a backup plan) and they won’t do c-sections for sure!