Precipitous Labor – Signs, Symptoms, and Risks

4 min read

Written by Suma rp

Suma rp

Precipitous labor - signs, symptoms and risks

One of the biggest fear for a pregnant woman is delivering the baby. Many women fear labor and in fact, even take classes to manage long and hard labor. Did you know that not all women go through long hours of tough labor? Many women have precipitous labor. They go into labor and birth the baby within very few hours.

Sounds interesting doesn’t it? Imagine you don’t have to go through hours of labor, walk around or squat with all that pain to speed up the process. What if all that could happen on its own? Would you want that or go through many hours of labor like the usual norm?

In This Article

What is Precipitous Labor?

Precipitous labor is also known as rapid labor. The contractions don’t last for more than 3 hours. In some cases, even labor that lasts up to 5 hours can be classified as precipitous labor.

As good and easy as it may sound, rapid labor carries its own set of risks and complications. When the labor progresses too fast, the woman might push the baby before the cervix dilates completely or before the baby is ready. Many times it results in preterm births. Only a few women experience the average labor length when they are in rapid labor.

Signs and Symptoms of Precipitous Labor

uncomfortable pregnant woman holding belly and back

Rapid labor has quick progress. Unlike the normal contractions that occur in regular intervals, the timing of your contractions may vary. Here are a few symptoms that you need to be aware of

  • Sudden contractions that come and go in irregular intervals
  • Contractions will intensify very quickly
  • You may not get many breaks between contractions
  • You will feel like pushing the baby out within a few hours itself

[Read : Pushing (Bearing Down) The Baby]

Complications of Precipitous Labor and Delivery

Unlike regular labor, in rapid labor, most women do not go through the three stages of labor. The cervix will dilate very quickly and the woman may not feel the contractions intensifying. So, she may get the urge to push without any warning.

Some of the complications due to this kind of labor are

  • Low birth weight
  • Increases the risk of hemorrhage in the mother
  • Increases the risk of vaginal tears
  • Might become difficult to follow a birth plan if any

If the mother does not have enough time to reach the hospital, the birth can happen in an unsterilized environment. This increases the risk of infections in both mother and baby.

If the delivery happens outside the hospital, the mother won’t have qualified professionals and the facilities to attend to her or her newborn baby. The entire delivery process can be very traumatic for the mother.

What to Do If You Experience Precipitous Labor?

pregnant couple calling doctor

Rapid labor progresses very quickly. If you feel you have the symptoms, here is what you can do

1. Call your family or spouse immediately as you need support and help.

2. Avoid driving to the hospital by yourself and ask for an ambulance.

3. Call your doctor or the hospital immediately and let them know you are coming.

4. If you can’t reach the hospital immediately, ask your hospital or doctor for advice. They can refer you to the nearest hospital or guide you on what to do.

5. Once you feel the baby is coming, please follow the following steps:

  • Lie down on your left side to slow down the contractions and increase the blood flow to the baby
  • Stay in the cleanest place around you to reduce the risk of infection
  • Practice your breathing technique and try to calm down. Stressing now might speed up the process.
  • Wait for help to come instead of trying to do something on your own.

Can You Prevent Precipitous Labor and Delivery?

If your doctor feels you are at risk of rapid labor, or if you have had a previous experience, you can induce labor to reduce the risks. Choosing to induce labor will depend on the doctor and your health. It is not a standard protocol as it has its own set of risks and complications.

Another way to avoid complications is to get admitted to the hospital once you feel any symptoms. Alternatively, you can move closer to the hospital and stay indoors, so that you can get to the hospital immediately once symptoms start.

Precipitous labor is not uncommon. However, it is not something to cherish as it has its own risks and complications. Also, this kind of labor need not be risky at all times either, so do not fear unnecessarily. The only way to handle is to be prepared with handling techniques.

[Read : Induced Labor]


1. How Long is Precipitous Labor?

Precipitous labor or rapid labor doesn’t last for a long time. The typical time is less than 3 hours. In some cases, it can last up to 5 hours as well.

2. What is The Effect of Precipitous Labor on a Fetus?

The fetus may be pushed out before it is ready to come out into the world, leading to preterm birth, low birth weight, and a few other complications as well. Sometimes, intense and quick contractions can hurt the baby as well.

3. Can You Control Precipitous Labor Once It Begins?

No, precipitous labor can progress quickly. You cannot use any drugs or techniques to slow down precipitous labor once it starts.

Read Also: Birthing And Labor Positions

Suma rp,M.Sc (Organic Chemistry) Rayalaseema University B.Sc (Biotechnology) Sri Krishna Devaraya University.

Suma is a passionate content writer with a strong keenness to understand the miracle of pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Suma has successfully transitioned into a full-time content writer and a key contributor at Being The Parent. She leverages on her experimental background in chemistry and experience in writing to come up with well-researched content that helps parents struggling to deal with various medical conditions of their children.Read more.

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