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Why Stalled Labor Sucks - and How You Can Prevent It

What is stalled labor? During the active phase of labor, contractions can slow down, dilation may not progress as expected, or the baby may not descend the birth canal as anticipated.

Let's talk about a few of the most common reasons why stalled labor can occur:

  • Baby can be in a difficult position.

  • The maternal pelvis may not expand to accommodate a large-headed baby.

  • Strength of contractions.

  • Mom is stressed or in a state of fear.

While at first glance these things may seem to be out of your hands, there are prevention steps you can do as a mom or birth team .

Baby can be in a difficult position: There are ligaments in the uterus that attach to the pelvis. These ligaments include the round ligaments and broad ligaments. The round ligaments anchor the front left and right sides of the uterus to the front hip bones. These ligaments actually have muscle fibers in them! If one of these ligaments goes into spasm, it can pull on the top of the uterus, limiting expansion and angling the uterus in a way that does not point directly to the birth canal. The broad ligament connects the lower uterus to the sacrum, or the back of your pelvis. This means that if the sacrum is rotated, it will pull or torque the lower uterus by way of the broad ligament. This can limit uterine expansion and cause the uterus to point in a direction other than the optimal position for birth. By having a Webster-certified chiropractor assess the round ligaments and sacrum, you can make sure your uterus is pointing towards the birth canal for birth that is a straight shot. Additionally, if the baby is in any position other than the optimal head-down position, it needs optimal uterine expansion in order to shift and turn head-down for birth. Knowing that your uterine ligaments are in the proper position can give you peace of mind that your uterus has the best chance to expand when needed for the baby to go head down.

The maternal pelvis may not expand to accommodate a large-headed baby: Ever try to shove a round peg through a square hole? Well, what if that square hole could open at the seams to accommodate the diameter of your round peg? This is what your pelvis is supposed to do during birth. During a natural pregnancy, the SI joints at the back of your pelvis are supposed to shift and open the pelvic outlet. Unfortunately, for some women, because they sit all day, they have pelvic fixations and their SI joints are not fully movable. Because of this, the pelvic outlet can't expand, and the baby’s head or shoulder can easily get caught on the ischial tuberosity (the bottom sit bones). This will cause the baby to go back up the canal to try for another way to descend. Additionally, SI joints can't fully move to open the pelvic outlet if a woman is lying on them. That is why a woman should not give birth on her back; her SI joints are on the back of her pelvis and need to move! A Webster-certified chiropractor is able to see if the SI joints are fully movable and, if not, get them movable before birth.

Strength of contractions: The muscles used in birth are not our typical walking muscles but are rather autonomic muscles and even include muscles used for pooping! Because we want to make sure all these muscles can contract when the time is right, a Webster-certified chiropractor can check that the innervations, or the nerves supplying these muscles, are functioning well.

Mom is stressed or in a state of fear: Birth is supposed to be a happy, calm, social experience. The parasympathetics need to function. If mom is stressed, contractions can slow down. This is why the environment, your birth plan, and your birth team need to be established before you give birth. Feeling unsafe is the best way to stall labor. It is always okay to kick your mother-in-law out of the birth room. And on a more serious note, it is never too late to change your doctor. It is essential that you feel safe during your birth for a healthy birth. This is why doulas are great ideas. They are people there to support you while you give birth and keep you and your body calm. One great move that I learned from a doula is sacral massage. It stimulates the parasympathetic nerves to calm you down and get you into the right mental state for birth. Birth preparation classes and hypnobirthing are also great ways to limit stress.

Now that you know the prevention steps to avoid stalled labor, it is time to take action. Give the office a call and we will do our best to connect you with a chiropractor, doula, and midwife to make your birth a safe and calm experience.

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