Although most births go perfectly fine, there are some complications that can happen. Some of these happen unexpectedly, others are known before birth, for example if your baby is in breech position. If you run into complications remember to remain calm; it is highly likely that your medical care team will be ready for any eventuality and will take care of your and your baby during this time.
Here are some complications that can arise in pregnancy.
Foetal distress can happen for a number of reasons. Maternal illness, placental abruption, umbilical cord compression, foetal infection or mum could be in a position that puts pressure on blood vessels, depriving baby of oxygen. Foetal distress is associated with foetal heart rate and it is thought if the heart is low; or if baby’s heart rate does not return to normal after a contraction, baby is under stress.
If your baby is under stress and you are fully dilated and baby’s head is low, your midwife may use a vacuum extractor to deliver baby quickly. Otherwise, the doctor will deliver baby by Caesarean section.
A complication that you are aware of in advance is if your baby is breech. This is when the baby is positioned in the uterus head up, bottom down, sideways or feet first. The majority of babies who remain breech are delivered by Caesarean section. Some say getting on all fours to elevate your hips above your heart, then lowering yourself onto your forearms, encourages the baby to turn. But by 37 – 38 weeks some doctors will try an external version (turning baby manually by applying pressure to the mother’s abdomen. If this doesn’t work or baby flips back your doctor will try again or schedule you in for a caesarean section.
If your labour is not progressing; your midwife or obstetrician by may help it along by giving you a drug that will increase your contractions. Firstly your midwife will carefully assess your contraction pattern and examine your cervix to see how far dilated you are. Your baby’s heart rate will also be paid close attention to while you’re having a contraction to ensure your baby can tolerate stronger contractions.
If all is ok you will be given a drug called oxytoxin through a drip, starting off on small doses and increasing as needed. If your labour is augmented your baby’s heart rate will be continuously monitored.
The baby has inhaled meconium, a black, tarry substance in the baby’s intestines that can cause breathing complications. This is usually more common in babies who are overdue. If meconium can be seen on your baby your midwife will clear it from your baby’s nose and mouth at birth. If it has been inhaled, baby will go to intensive care; most babies are fine, they just need some breathing support.
Umbilical cord wraps around baby’s neck
This is a common problem in labour and in most cases baby is delivered safe. If you have a contraction and the baby’s heart rate doesn’t return to normal the cord may be too tight, which could mean your baby is under stress. If you are unable to push baby out a vacuum extractor may be used or a C-section performed to deliver baby safely.
A C-section can be either scheduled or an emergency caesarean could be performed due to complications at birth. A C-section is when doctors deliver a baby by making a small incision in the abdomen and uterus. Emergency sections are performed for reasons explained above and caesareans are scheduled for many reasons; for instance if you are having more than one baby, if you’ve previously had a C-section, if the placenta is blocking the cervix, and if your baby is large size.