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Expect the Unexpected Before Baby

October 17, 2022

Many birth classes train you to prepare for an ideal-scenario labor and delivery. However, the unexpected can happen.

The more that you know about potential labor emergency scenarios, the easier it will be for you to make a decision as well as trust your doctor to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safest and best possible outcome for your baby.

Preterm Labor

A full-term pregnancy is giving birth at or after 37 weeks. If you go into labor and deliver before 37 weeks, it is known as a preterm birth. If you experience preterm labor, you will likely be in the hospital or at home on bed rest until the baby comes.

After 25 weeks in utero, the baby’s chances of survival without extensive life support increase dramatically. However, your baby will need the special care of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Required hospital stays of several weeks can be incredibly taxing on you and your family, especially if you have other children. You may experience anxiety or depression. Talk to your doctor if that happens.

Preterm Premature Rupture of Membrane (PPROM)

When you break your water unexpectedly before 37 weeks, this is known as a preterm premature rupture of membrane. In this instance, your water breaking does not mean that you are about to deliver. However, it does mean that you are at increased risk for delivering early as well as infection.  Your doctor may suggest that you stay in the hospital for monitoring.

You are more at risk for PPROM if you have:

  • Preterm birth in previous pregnancy
  • Vaginal bleeding or infection in your reproductive system
  • Smoking in pregnancy

Emergency C-Sections

At about 36 weeks, you and your doctor will talk about what you should expect during the labor and delivery process. An emergency C-section may become necessary in certain situations, including:

  • If the cervix doesn’t dilate to the necessary 10 cm necessary for stage two of labor
  • If the baby does not descend into the birth canal
  • If your baby is not tolerating labor well, such as if your baby’s heart rate falls suddenly

Intrauterine Fetal Demise

One of the most difficult traumas that can occur during pregnancy is when the baby dies while in utero. In this case, you will still have to complete the labor process. Your doctor and hospital team will do everything possible to provide comfort through this heartbreaking event.

Visit to or return to the OR

Emergencies can happen after you have delivered the baby, and you both are fine. It’s possible that the placenta does not deliver spontaneously or within 30 minutes after delivering the baby. Also, your uterus does not become firm and there is increased bleeding.  In either situation, it may require going to or returning to the operating room to ensure that the entire placenta has been removed/manage hemorrhage.

What To Expect During an Emergency

It’s important that you discuss the possibilities with your OB-GYN. Keep in mind that your doctor will likely talk about a variety of possible emergencies, but it is impossible to discuss every conceivable emergency ahead of time.

If an emergency occurs, your medical team will do everything possible for you and your baby. Remember that every doctor is different, but in most cases, their behavior will change suddenly. They likely won’t have time to explain what is happening until the emergency has passed.

As soon as your baby is delivered, your doctor will explain everything and answer any questions you may have.

It all can happen very quickly. This is one of the biggest reasons it is important to have regular check-ups with your OB-GYN and develop trust, which helps you feel more comfortable with your medical team.

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