The World Health Organization estimates that around 830 women die globally, every day due to childbirth complications. This is, of course, an alarming number, and we don’t mean to scare you.
What you should note is that 99% of these deaths occur in developing countries, and most of these complications are avoidable. They are avoidable when they have access to the right resources and information.
So if you’re an expecting mother, or father or just someone who is curious, let’s look into the potential complications during labor, and learn more about them.
1. Perenium Tears or Lacerations
Perennial lacerations are vaginal tears that occur either when the baby’s head is a bit too large to fit through the vaginal opening. It can also be caused when the vagina does not stretch enough to allow the baby’s head to fit through for a smooth exit.
First-degree tears involve the tearing of the vaginal skin. Second-degree tears include the tearing of the vaginal muscle as well as skin. You will most likely need stitches, but this depends on the severity of the tears.
Now, these may sound rather scary, but most of these heal very quickly as well. You can consider soothing your tears with ice packs or your doctor might prescribe medications to help ease the pain.
If you feel like you aren’t healing, or that your pain is getting worse, you should consult your doctor immediately.
2. Perinatal Asphyxia
Perinatal asphyxia goes by several names including neonatal asphyxia or birth asphyxia. This occurs when a baby fails to commence or sustain breathing, during or after delivery. Since this baby is unable to breathe normally, blood flow will be abnormal.
The severity of birth asphyxia may vary depending on the duration of the deprivation of oxygen to the baby. Most babies with mild to moderate asphyxia recover quickly when treated appropriately. But, during the time of asphyxiation, the baby’s organs may deteriorate due to loss of blood flow and oxygen.
Even after the baby’s breathing is back to normal, there might still be potential to worsen the situation if the damaged cells release toxins. This is a “reperfusion injury“.
3. Shoulder Dystocia
Sometimes, during labor, the baby’s head releases through the vaginal opening leaving the shoulders caught behind between the mother’s pubic bone. This condition is shoulder dystocia. This also creates, what doctors call the “turtle sign” – a situation where the baby may retrieve back into the uterus because it cannot come out.
Besides being a complication within itself, it can also cause brachial plexus injury, excessive vaginal bleeding, or even clavicle fractures. Some women are more at risk than others. Factors like obesity, induced labor can contribute to the probability of shoulder dystocia.
4. Malpositioning of the Baby
While an idea position may include a downward facing baby, sometimes this isn’t the case. When the baby’s position is different, or when the umbilical cord gets in the way of regular birth it creates a less than ideal situation for the delivery. A nuchal cord refers to a situation where the umbilical cord gets wrapped around the baby’s neck.
Malpositioning can include:
- Frank breech: When the baby’s position is buttocks first.
- Complete breech: When the baby’s position is feet first.
- Horizontal baby: When the baby lays sideways towards the vaginal opening.
- Upward facing baby: When the baby faces upwards, instead of downwards.
If the doctor can foresee the malpositioning of a baby, they may recommend a cesarian beforehand.
5. Placenta Previa
Placenta previa refers to a situation where the vaginal opening gets obstructed with the placenta. This obstruction can be either complete, partial or marginal (at the edge of the woman’s cervix).
One of the major indicative factors of placenta previa is excessive, painless bleeding during the third trimester. If not treated appropriately, the situation can lead to a more severe complication called placenta accreta.
This refers to a situation where the placenta becomes inseparable from the uterine wall.
6. Uterine Rupture
This is a complication that usually occurs with women who have previously had cesarian deliveries. As pressure releases into the birth canal, it may cause previous scars on the uterus to tear open and cause the baby to move into the mother’s abdomen.
This is one of the reasons that women who have had cesarian deliveries are usually asked to avoid subsequent vaginal deliveries.
A complication like this can have fatal repercussions on the baby and cause hemorrhages or severe blood loss in the mother. However, you should also note that this is one of the rarer delivery complications out there.
7. Meconium Aspiration Syndrome
Every newborn baby ideally releases green fecal matter called “meconium”, during their first few days in the outside world. It is the waste collected in the fetus’s intestines before birth.
However, complications, namely meconium aspiration syndrome arises when the baby excretes this matter into the uterus, before birth, and breathes it in. This can cause symptoms likely poor breathing, cyanosis or bluish discoloration and lower blood pressure in the baby.
Doctors may then use oxygen therapy, ventilators or antibiotics to treat the baby.
How to Deal with Childbirth Complications
Some childbirth complications may occur despite your precautions. However, doing all you can to avoid them will definitely reduce their chances of happening. Do your research, make sure you are comfortable with your gynecologist, maintain a healthy diet and ask as many questions as you have!
In certain cases, childbirth complications may even arise due to negligence or malpractice on the part of your doctor. If you are experiencing a situation like this, or know someone who is, get in touch for a free consultation, and we’ll advise you on your best possible route!