Delayed Delivery/Prolonged Labor

Nationwide Cerebral Palsy Resource Network

Also known as the failure to progress, a delayed delivery occurs for a variety of reasons, and if not immediately and properly treated, may result in serious and sometimes life threatening injuries to you and your unborn child. While there are certain risk factors associated with the potential for delayed delivery during the birthing process, oftentimes there is no particular reason for why it occurred.

Many women do all they can do during their pregnancy yet still experience delayed delivery. These sets of circumstances can be devastating to expectant parents. If you believe negligence prolonged labor resulting in injury to you or your child, please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800)462-5772 for a free evaluation of your case.

What are the causes and risk factors associated with a delayed delivery?

It isn’t well understood what exactly causes a pregnancy to last longer than others.  Many times it is a result of a miscalculated due date. There are also a number of risk factors that make a post-term pregnancy more likely, such as:

  • A family history of a delayed delivery;
  • A child with macrosomia/cephalopelvic disproportion;
  • Shoulder dystocia;
  • Maternal diabetes;
  • An overly small maternal pelvis;
  • An abnormally shaped maternal pelvis;
  • Labor dystocia;
  • Maternal impaired glucose tolerance;
  • Having a male child;
  • Maternal obesity;
  • Genetics;
  • Advanced maternal age;
  • A cervix that does not properly dilate;
  • Maternal impaired glucose tolerance;
  • Overdue pregnancy (past 42 weeks gestation);
  • Being of Hispanic descent;
  • Maternal spondylolisthesis, a condition in which the bone in the spine dislocates and rests on the bones below it;
  • A maternal history of pelvic trauma;
  • Congenital deformities of the pelvis or tailbone;
  • Maternal history of pelvic bone tumors;
  • Abnormally shaped maternal pelvis;
  • Maternal osteomalacia, a condition characterized by the softening of the pelvic bones;
  • Fibroid tumors in the uterus;
  • Excessive maternal weight gain;
  • Unusual presentation of a child (i.e. breech position);
  • Congenital vaginal septum;
  • Having delivered previous children diagnosed with cephalopelvic disproportion and/or macrosomia;
  • A mother and/or father of a larger size;
  • A mother who is of short stature, typically 5’3” or less;
  • Maternal exhaustion;
  • Maternal drug use;
  • Maternal dehydration;
  • Uterine contractions that are not strong enough;
  • Improper usage of labor inducing medications;
  • Severe pain during labor.

What are the sign and symptoms associated with a delayed delivery?

There are a number of signs and symptoms of delayed delivery, such as:

  • Less than three contractions that occur within a ten minute time period, which last less than 40 seconds;
  • A change in cervical dilation that is less than one centimeter per hour for two hours in a row;
  • Little to no change in the baby’s progression and descent into the birth canal after three hours of pushing despite a fully dilated cervix (10 cm).

How is a delayed delivery safely and effectively treated/managed?

The most important goal in managing a post-term pregnancy is to prevent the complications associated with the condition. How a post-term pregnancy is treated and managed depends upon the following set of factors:

  • The nature of your pregnancy, health status and medical history;
  • The extent of your post-term pregnancy (i.e. how far along it is);
  • Your ability to tolerate certain medications, therapies and medical procedures;
  • Your expectations, opinions or preferences regarding your treatment;

In consideration of the above, there are a number of treatment options, such as:

  • Cesarean section;
  • Use of forceps or a vacuum extractor to facilitate a vaginal delivery;
  • Artificial rupture of membranes;
  • Epidural;
  • Oxytocin (a uterine muscle stimulant);
  • Pain medication.

What are the complications associated with a delayed delivery?

There are a number of complications that can arise as a result of a delayed delivery, such as:

  • Post-maturity syndrome – This condition occurs in roughly 20 percent of post-term pregnancies.  A post-term baby is more likely to suffer from chronic stress and hypoxia (a lack of oxygen) due to uteroplacental insufficiencies that arise in a post-term pregnancy;
  • Caput succedaneum;
  • Hemorrhaging within the baby's head - The use of obstetric instruments during the delivery of a post-term child may increase its chance of sustaining this type of injury;
  • Cerebral palsy;
  • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy;
  • Periventricular leukomalacia;
  • Developmental delay;
  • Erb’s palsy;
  • Klumpke’s palsy;
  • Seizure disorders;
  • Paralysis – Due to the fact that a post-term pregnancy may involve an obstructed vaginal delivery, sometimes more force the use of certain obstetric instruments may be necessary to free a child from the birth canal.  Injuries such as paralysis may be more likely.
  • Shoulder dystocia;
  • Mental retardation.

Delayed delivery and medical malpractice

The complications associated with a delayed delivery are caused by a multitude of different factors.  Many involve the following cases of medical negligence:

  • Delayed decision to perform a Cesarean section;
  • Failure to monitor for and/or detect fetal distress;
  • Improper usage of a vacuum extractor or forceps;
  • Failure to administer oxygen to a newborn in distress;
  • Failure to diagnose a pregnancy related medical condition such as gestational diabetes;
  • Faulty or improperly used fetal monitoring equipment to determine whether a child is suffering from delayed delivery-related fetal distress;
  • Failure to diagnose and treat pregnancy, labor and delivery complications associated with a delayed delivery;
  • Failure to detect and address certain fetal conditions that may cause a delayed delivery;
  • Miscalculation of a baby’s size, leading to delivery complications;
  • Improper administration of Pitocin or Cytotec, which are medications used to induce labor;
  • Failure to respond to the signs and symptoms of a delayed delivery;
  • Failure to enlist the help of obstetric specialists to assist a women with a high risk pregnancy;
  • Failure to recognize when a child is in a breech position;
  • Improperly trained doctors and staff;
  • Not enough doctors and/or staff to assist a woman in labor;
  • Failure to move forward with a vaginal delivery.

If you suspect that your child was injured as a result of a negligent medical professional or hospital, it is important to know that you are not alone. Stern Law, PLLC is here to help. For a free review of your case, please call (800)462-5772.