6 Methods for Helping Speed Up Labor Progress

pregnant woman in hospital bed and man sleeping in recliner

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Labor is unpredictable. While worrying that you won't make it to the hospital in time is common during pregnancy, you may also find yourself in the opposite situation: your labor is progressing very slowly. Having a slow or stalled labor can increase the likelihood of needing medical intervention, such as a Cesarean (C-section). However, there are several methods you can try to help labor along in the first stage or speed up a labor that is not progressing.

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How to Move Labor Along

Try these methods if your labor is slow going.

Standing and Walking

One of the main benefits of standing positions during labor is gravity, which helps increase pressure on the cervix and supports your baby's descent into the pelvis. If you are able to get up and walk around, you get the added benefits of movement. Many women find that swaying, rocking, or even dancing eases their pain.

Breast Stimulation

Breast stimulation releases oxytocin into your bloodstream, which can bring on contractions. A breast pump can be used to stimulate your nipples or it can be done manually with your own fingers or help from a partner. Some women find getting in the shower and letting the water beat down on their chest is enough to encourage the flow of oxytocin.

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 a birth doula with special training. You can also talk to your massage therapist or acupuncturist to see if they have any helpful suggestions you or your support person can use yourselves.

Changing Positions

If your baby's position is slowing down the progression of labor, changing your position can make it easier for them to get into the best position for moving through your pelvis as labor progresses.

Try sitting on a birth ball or rocking chair. A type of exercise therapy ball called a peanut ball can also be used to ease labor and help speed things along, particularly if the baby's position is delaying progress.

If you have an epidural and are not able to move around easily or safely on your own, ask your support person or nurse to help you move from side to side or sit up.

Getting a New Perspective

While it won't exactly speed up your labor the way standing or walking can, a change of scenery can provide distraction from the discomfort of labor, perhaps at least making it seem like the clock is moving a bit faster. Getting into a new environment, even just for a little bit, can also help ease some of the mental stress that comes along with this process.

If you are at the hospital, try taking a walk down to the nursery to take a look at the newborns. You might even be able to leave the building for a short time; some hospitals have special areas on the property where you can get some fresh air and take a stroll.

If you are at home, try getting outside—even if only to stand in your own backyard. Too tired for a walk around the block? Try simply changing rooms. If you've been in the living room, get in bed for a while. Or if you've spent most of the day in bed, take a bath or try other relaxation techniques that use water.

Medical Intervention

Occasionally, medical intervention might be the best choice for you and your baby if your labor has slowed down or stopped progressing.

Medical interventions for stalled labor can include:

You and your doctor or midwife can discuss which intervention is right for you. The decision will depend on the point you're at in your labor and how close you are to being able to deliver, as well as other factors.

However, even if your labor is progressing more slowly than you expected, you may not need to intervene. As long as you as your baby are both doing fine, you may not have to do anything but wait.

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Article Sources

  • WHO Recommendations for Augmentation of Labour. World Health Organization. Published February 9, 2016.

  • Simkin P, Hanson L, Ancheta R. The Labor Progress Handbook: Early Interventions to Prevent and Treat Dystocia. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.; 2017.