Labor Challenge

Fast Labor

A Fast Labor, also known as a precipitous birth, is a labor that lasts less than three hours. A fast labor is not an emergency situation since generally a fast labor means everything is working perfectly.

Why is a fast labor a challenge?

Though it happens in only a small number of births, the strong contractions that accompany a fast labor can be overwhelming to a mother who did not expect to progress through labor so quickly. Emotionally, the mother may begin to doubt herself and her ability to cope because she is having such difficulty handling what she believes to be early labor.

Physically, a fast labor, specifically a fast pushing phase may increase the risk a mother tearing if her body is not ready to stretch. However, some experts believe whether or not a woman tears has more to do with whether she is working with her body than how fast birth happens.

It is important that the labor support and caregivers assess the physical and emotional signs to reassure the mother that she has progressed quickly. For many women, knowing that they are nearly done makes them feel more confident.

Potential Solutions

Pay special attention to the emotional signs to have an accurate picture of where she is in labor.

Do not leave her alone.

Remind her that everything is moving fast because everything is going right.

Try techniques that may slow labor, such as side lying positions rather than upright positions or walking.

Things to discuss with your caregiver:

A side concern with fast labors is the possibility of tearing the perineal skin. This happens because the baby comes out faster than the skin is stretching. Some caregivers recommend using a side-lying position to help slow down the birth. You may want to discuss your caregivers methods for helping to keep the perineum intact with a fast birth.

Although a fast labor is not an emergency, you may want to become familiar with some "emergency birth" skills. Knowing what to do and what not to do will make you feel more confident if you are unable to make it to your birth place.

Some caregivers feel it is safer for a mother who suddenly finds herself pushing to stay where she is and call for help (perhaps 911 or a midwife who will come to you) instead of risking getting caught in traffic where it is difficult for emergency personnel to find you if necessary. Your caregiver can help you determine the best course of action for you depending on the area you live and how close or far you are to help.

Women who have had a fast birth before are most likely to have a fast birth again. Additionally, fast births are more common for experienced mothers than for first time mothers. If you believe you are likely to have a fast birth, be sure to discuss your plans for handling a fast labor and the possibility of a more relaxed paced labor.