When Labor Fails to Progress

So you're in the middle of labor, things have been progressing nicely and all of a sudden your midwife, OB or nurse say labor has stalled.

Well, what the heck happened?

This happened to a patient of mine recently.

She was having some complications at the end of her pregnancy with severe Braxton Hicks, so her OBs decided it was time to induce her.

She went over her plan with her OB and doula to make sure they were all on the same page in terms of how high the Pitocen would be for the strength of the contractions because she knew they would be stronger than her current contractions and she really wanted to avoid having an epidural.

So, she was laboring at the hospital and things seemed to be progressing until a new OB came on shift.  As my patient puts it "she wanted to kick it up a notch."  So she increased the Pitocen dose, which made the contractions incredible painful and constant.  So my patient had no break.

She said, "we're getting the baby out now."

My patient voiced her concern and asked to reduce back to the original rate. Her feelings were dismissed by everyone in the room based on the new OBs advice.

Her labor slowed and she was in so much pain, she needed an epidural.

So now she was no longer progressing and she had to have more of a medicated delivery than she had planned.

Now, my patient has chronic sacroiliac dysfunction from a traumatic fall years ago, which we had worked really hard to get under control.  She has a hard time relaxing because she is a high energy person and she tends to forget to breath in intense situations.

All of these things are recipe for a harder delivery before adding in the fact she now did not feel comfortable with the OB who would potentially be delivering her baby.

Her body decided to stop her labor.

Our bodies have a protective mechanism - fight, flight, freeze.

When you are presented with a situation that is threatening or may be harmful your primal brain does a quick assessment without you even consciously being aware.

Your body will them respond by either fighting the threat, fleeing from the threat or freezing until the threat is gone.

In all of these situations our bodies produce more cortizal and endorphins which are stress hormones.  During birth, these hormones will slow progression.  In my patients case, her body froze and completely stopped progression.

Fight, Flight, Freeze

For many who are put into this situation where they do not feel comfortable either with the amount of activity in the room, a person in the room, a procedure that is being suggested or performed, will respond in this way.

The medical community calls this "failure to progress."

Some births truly fail to progress because of pelvic structure or babies position.

However, for many moms it's because they subconsciously do not feel comfortable in the situation they are in. So until they do feel comfortable the body will not thaw.


This is precisely what happened with my patient. Once the OB she did not feel comfortable with, went off shift, her body went back into dilating and she was able to birth her baby boy within an hour.

This can be an amazing tool of our body when allowed to work itself out.  But only when someone recognizes it as such, can you give the mom space to open up and birth.

Working with your body, not against it allows you have a much smoother labor, delivery and recovery.  You just need to know how!!

If you're interested in learning ways to assist the body in working through distractions and uncomfortable situations during birth contact me!