What are Delivery Complications?

Although serious complications are rare during labor, one cannot completely ignore the fact that some complications can arise at this time. Some of the more common complications include:

Fetal Distress
Fetal distress is an uncommon complication of labor. It typically occurs when the fetus has not been receiving enough oxygen. The most sensitive indicator of fetal distress is an abnormal heart rate pattern in the fetus. During the course of delivery and a mother being in labor, the health of the baby is monitored. If a significant abnormality in the baby’s heart rate is detected, it can usually be corrected by such measures as giving the mother oxygen, increasing the amount of fluids given intravenously to the mother, and turning the mother on her left side to increase the flow of oxygen to the baby. If these measures are not effective, the baby is delivered as quickly as possible by forceps, a vacuum extractor, or via cesarean section. Fetal distress may be associated with post maturity (when the placenta malfunctions in a post-term pregnancy) or with complications of pregnancy or labor that affect the woman and therefore also affect the fetus.

Abnormal Position and Presentation of the Fetus Position
This complication refers to whether the baby is facing rearward (toward the mother’s back, or face down) or forward (face up). Presentation refers to the part of the baby’s body that leads the way out through the birth canal. The most common and safest combination is head first (called a vertex or cephalic presentation) and facing down, with the face and body angled toward the right or left and with the neck bent forward, chin tucked in, and arms folded across the chest. If the baby is in a different position or presentation, labor may be more difficult and delivery through the vagina may not be possible.

Fetal Meconium
During the course of labor when the amniotic sac membrane ruptures, the normal color of the amniotic fluid is clear. However, if the amniotic fluid is greenish or brown in color, it may indicate fetal meconium, which is normally passed after birth as the baby’s first bowel movement. Meconium in the amniotic fluid may indicate fetal distress. A woman should consult her physician immediately if her water breaks at home and she notices green or brown fluid.

Uterine Bleeding
After the baby is delivered, excessive bleeding (postpartum hemorrhage) gives rise to this complication. Ordinarily, the mother loses about one pint of blood after delivery. Blood is lost because some blood vessels are opened when the placenta detaches from the uterus. The contractions of the uterus help close these vessels until the vessels can heal.

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