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As much as many women prefer a fast and smooth delivery, going through multiple rapid labours like this mummy featured on Channel News Asia is something we hope we wouldn’t have to experience.

Is it common and can it be prevented? We asked Dr Peter Chew, a gynaecologist from Gleneagles Hospital, to tell us more.

 

What is Rapid Labour?

Rapid labour is also known as precipitous labour, this happens when you deliver your baby faster than the average normal, usually within 3 hours from the first real contraction. 

Most of the time, the mummy will be caught off guard by the speed of the contraction progression, your body doesn’t have the time to stretch slowly to prepare for the birth which may lead to tearing and delivery on your way to the hospital. 

In the US, this happens in 1 to 3 out of 100 births.

 

Why does Rapid Labour happen?

The exact cause is not well understood and there is no conclusive evidence that it is a genetic condition, however, the mother-to-be is at higher risk of experiencing rapid labour if she has:

  • History of rapid labour
  • History of giving birth to low birth weight baby (e.g. Intrauterine growth restriction)
  • History of multiple births (delivering many children)
  • Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) or chronic hypertension
  • Placenta abruption

 

As the exact cause is not known, it is difficult to prevent its occurrence. Here are some symptoms of rapid labour:

  • Sudden, strong contractions with very close intervals
  • Intense pain with each contraction
  • Pain that feels like one continuous contraction
  • An intense urge to bear down and push 
  • A sensation of pressure in the pelvis 

 

Support and preparation

If the couple suspects rapid labour occurring, these are the things the husband can do to support and prepare his wife:

  • Stay calm and get help
  • Reassure wife and stay by her side all the time
  • Call the obstetrician and arrange for medical transport to send the wife to a maternity hospital as soon as possible.
  • Lay the wife either on her back or by her side
  • Encourage her to breathe deeply during contractions (use breathing techniques taught in antenatal class)
  • Encourage her not to push till help arrives
  • Get some clean towels to cover the baby in case the baby is delivered on the way to the hospital 

 

If going to the hospital for delivery is not an option, the husband should:

  • Lay the wife in a clean area, and let her be comfortable either on her back or by her side 
  • Call 995 to inform them of the situation
  • If the baby starts to arrive, try to ease the baby out gently by pressing hands carefully against the mother’s perineum (area between her vagina and anus). This is to prevent the baby’s head from popping out too fast and causing a tear. 
  • Guide the baby out gradually and do not pull the baby. Once the baby’s head is out, encourage the mother to push the baby out gently.
  • As soon as the baby is delivered, bring the baby up onto the mother’s tummy or chest to have skin-to-skin contact. This will keep the baby warm and calm.
  • Wrap the baby with a clean towel and wait for help to arrive.

For couples who’ve experienced rapid labour, the husbands should do the following for any subsequent deliveries:

  • Alert the obstetrician regarding previous birth 
  • Empower himself with the knowledge of various labour stages and equip himself with what to do if the baby arrives before reaching the hospital 
  • Nearing the estimated date of delivery, he can request for the obstetrician to assess the state of his wife’s cervix.  If delivery is imminent, a planned delivery would be appropriate so that the couple is more prepared to let the rapid labour happen safely.

 

I Love Children would like to thank Dr Peter Chew for his valuable input in this article.

 

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