Why is This Taking So Long? When Labor Stalls Out
This post is not intended to be medical advice and reflects only the opinions and experiences of the author.
Raise your hand if you’ve spent hours planning your labor and delivery, writing down notes on a piece of paper, talking it through with your partner or support person, just to find that labor does NOT go as planned . . . well neither did mine. And while most labors don’t go as planned, it is important to be mentally prepared, mindful of your own body and to feel empowered enough to make your own decisions. Here is the story of how my labor stalled and ways you can be better prepared to not be in the same boat.
Apart from endless “morning” sickness that lasted well into my third trimester and occurred at any and all hours, and the sixty-plus teenage student dilemma’s I dealt with on a daily basis, I had a pretty smooth pregnancy and was eagerly awaiting my baby due on Christmas.
Early December, I was told I’d be delivering sooner than later because I was already 3 cm dilated and three weeks away from the finish line. From that point on I had weekly appointments.
4 cm . . . 5 cm . . . 7 cm they said . . . but no baby yet.
Well, four days away from my due date, I went to the hospital thinking that my waters broke. My bladder probably got kicked around a little, because they didn’t break. But due to the fact that I was 8 cm dilated they kept me at the hospital. The contraction monitor was showing consistent contractions at 5 minutes apart even though I wasn’t feeling them . . . Then at 3 minutes apart, I still was not feeling them. The doctor wanted to break my waters and induce me even with my baby still so high up, but I came in wanting a natural labor and I didn’t see a reason to get induced. That didn’t stop the curiosity of how I was possibly 8 cm dilated and not in active labor…
Within twenty-four hours, I had six different nurses and a doctor check my cervix to see how dilated I was. With it being my first pregnancy, I didn’t know any better. I mean I knew I wasn’t feeling like I was in labor and I wasn’t getting any more dilated nor was the baby dropping any lower, but I continued to go with the flow of people constantly checking my cervix. Even as my cervix started to bleed from the constant checks, the nurses assured me that this was normal. If I knew now what I knew then, I would not have let anyone check my cervix, especially not so often. I knew I was pretty dilated, but my with my waters intact, baby high up, and no pain, I was far from being in active labor regardless of what the contraction monitor was showing. The doctor finally told me that my labor had stalled and the contractions had slowed down plenty.
‘Stalled?! What do you mean it stalled?! What does this mean? How is this possible? Should I let them induce me?’ So many questions going through my head. The nurse was pushing toward me getting induced at this point. I cried. ‘What do I do’ I thought? I wanted the best for my baby and I felt like a horrible mother at this point with all the ‘what if’s’ running through my head. If it weren’t for my husband who was so supportive and reminded me that this is my body and my choice and that I wanted a natural labor, I could’ve had a different story. In tears, I believed him and I checked myself out of the hospital.
I finally got to relax and could hear myself think once I was in the comfort of my own home. I ate a big dinner, did some exercises on my exercise ball, watched a movie with my husband, and went to sleep in my comfortable bed. The next morning, my waters definitely broke all over the floor. I didn’t panic. I took a shower, had a small breakfast, and then went to the hospital. This time, I was sure I’d meet my baby soon. I did end up having to get pitocin since he was still so high up and my waters had broken so we needed to hurry the process. Fast forward to 7:30 pm on December 23rd, I finally started to feel the contractions. We actually celebrated the pain, and nearly four hours later after thirty-five minutes of pushing, our baby boy Leo had arrived naturally at 11:05 pm. In the end I still got my natural labor that I dreamed of, but I went through a traumatic process to get there.
So why did my labor stall and how could you prevent yours from stalling??
Labor can stall as an effect of many things. The most basic being discomfort. When you are simply uncomfortable and feeling a great load of emotional stress, your body reacts and decides it’s not time for your labor to progress just yet. Emotional stress can be brought on by a number of things having to do with fear about labor and delivery, an environment or process that is making you feel unsafe and violated, or sexual abuse trauma. This was the case for me. My body had been so violated with excessive cervix checks!
My advice? Do not freak out! Just breathe. Change up the environment. Go for a walk, take a shower, watch a movie, and most importantly know your body so that you can tell your nurses and doctors what is right and feels most natural to you. It’s your body! You know it best.
Labor can also stall if your baby is not positioned correctly; if you were induced and the induction is not working because you aren’t dilating quick enough; or an epidural has caused your body to lose sense of when to push. Doctors quickly try to come up with ways to fix stalled labor medically with pitocin, or even a c-section as a last resort. Whatever the case may be, trust yourself first, take a moment to check in with your body and mind. Be empowered to make decisions, even if this is your first time and don’t be shy to communicate with your nurses and doctor. The better you know your body, the better you can inform your doctor on how to support you.