6 Ways to Speed Up a Slow Labor

How to Get Your Labor Going

Mom and Dad in Labor
Photo © Lillian Elaine Wilson/Getty Images

Labor is unpredictable. Pregnant women tend to spend a lot of time worrying about what to do if they don't make it to the hospital on time, but truthfully a long, slow labor is more likely to wind up increasing the likelihood of medical intervention and c-sections. So here are six ways to deal with your labor if it slows in the first stage or speeds up a stalled labor:

1. Changing Positions

Sometimes you simply need to move. Moving will help your baby move down with gravity, applying more pressure to the cervix is most cases, this can help you progress towards giving birth. It can also help your baby select the best position in which to move down into your pelvis. If you are laying down, try sitting up. Get out of bed and try a birth ball or rocking chair. If you have an epidural and can't move very well, you can ask for help to move from side to side or sit up a bit more. A peanut ball can also be helpful for helping your labor progress, particularly if the baby's position is why you're experiencing a delay.

2. Walking or Standing

If you are able to take a walk or even choose standing positions, you can get even bigger benefits from pressure on the cervix or fetal descent into the pelvis. You also get the benefits of movement, which can boost the effects of gravity. Many women also find that this movement, like swaying, rocking or dancing really helps their pain levels.

3. Breast Stimulation

Breast stimulation works because it releases oxytocin into your bloodstream and that can bring on contractions. This can be done with a breast pump or manually with your fingers massaging your nipples. Some moms even find that all they have to do is to get into the shower and let the water beat down on their nipples. This can cause enough stimulation to encourage the flow of oxytocin for some mothers.

4. Pressure Techniques

Massage and acupressure can be very beneficial in helping to speed up a stalled labor. A general massage may help you relax, decrease your pain or just be a nice change of pace. Specific techniques in acupressure can hit points that allow your body to produce more oxytocin as well, thus increase contractions. This can be done by an acupressure specialist or some birth doulas with special training. You can also talk to your massage therapist or acupuncturist to see if they have any helpful suggestions.

5. Changing Location

Sometimes you really just need a change of location - a new environment, even if for just a quick bit. This mental break can be very helpful for some mothers. If you are at the hospital, try to just walk the halls or walk around the outside of the building if possible. Some hospitals even have special areas where you can walk. Many moms enjoy looking at babies in the nursery or simply moving around. If you are at home, take a walk, even if it's in your own backyard. Too tired for a walk? Try simply changing rooms. You can also try various relaxation techniques including the use of water. This can help you feel like you're not stagnating.

6. Medical Intervention to Speed Up Labor

Occasionally, medical intervention can be the right choice. This might include breaking your water (amniotomy), augmentation (IV Pitocin) or even using pain medications including an epidural to help you relax. Which one of these you consider will depend on where you are in labor, what's going on, how far along you are and how far you have to go - it's a bit of a guessing game. But when the decision is made with your support team, practitioner included.

When talking about a slow labor, there is one thing that few people ever discuss: Do nothing. If you and your baby are doing fine and labor is taking longer than you expect there may be a reason your baby needs a bit more time. There may be no need to intervene just yet.

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