Precipitous Labour & Birth- When Babies Can’t Wait to Join the World!


I was recently at a birth where a first-time-mom had her baby incredibly fast. In this particular case, stage 2 was the speedy part, but I know that there are many parents out there that have speedy first-stages as well (have we all seen those photos of the woman in Kansas who gave birth to her baby in the hospital hallway? If not click here to see the Facebook post… truly amazing!). As a doula in Edmonton I can’t say that I was completely ready for just how quickly things went during this experience, since most birthers experience longer labours and births, especially with their first babies, but now that this experience is under my belt I want to chat a bit more about the good, the bad and the interesting when it comes to precipitous labour and birth.

It’s not really that predictable

According to a study done by National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine to analyze the clinical significance of precipitous labour, fast deliveries are much more common in second-or-more-time parents than first-time parents (21.5% compared to 6.9%). Risk factors that are more common are physical – things like having an incredibly efficient uterus, a perfectly positioned baby and really great pelvic structure and soft tissues. These are all things that a first-time mom won’t be able to tell are even characteristics for her. While there are many women who have precipitous labours who have relatives that have experienced the same, this is less prevalent then you would think… many of us experience completely different births than our relatives.

Higher risks of pelvic floor/perineal damage and haemorrhage 

I’m all about delivering the bad news first and ending with the good (this Edmonton doula likes to share positivity and empowerment!), so with that I will say that the worst part about having a fast birth is the higher chance of tearing and haemorrhaging. Both of these things can be quite scary. A 4th degree tear is no joke and requires extensive repair, and from what I’ve heard it sometimes feels worse than the actual birth (not to mention the healing process is quite long). A PPH is more likely simply because the uterus expelled everything so fast that it hasn’t had time to catch up and contract back to a smaller size as quickly, which can sometimes cause more blood and tissue loss than normal. With both of these situations there isn’t anything you can do to prevent them from happening. Some evidence does suggest that giving birth on your back can slow down fast labours (where normally us doulas in Edmonton urge women to get off their back to push), but this is definitely not the case for everyone. One thing to remember is that while both of these situations aren’t great, recovery will happen as long as you are in the hands of a good care provider and follow their instructions for a safe recovery.

Higher chance of a vaginal and/or unmedicated birth

Is having a vaginal birth important to you? Or having an unmedicated birth? Well the good news is that many women with fast births don’t need a cesarean or any pain medications (or in many cases, can’t have pain meds due to the fact that they are already too far along in the process). Due to the fact that many women who do have fast births have extremely efficient reproductive systems, the chances of these births needed any help from medical interventions are slim. Whether it be excellent contraction strength, ideal pelvic openings (“birthing hips” as we’ve probably all heard before) or tissues that are responsive and just know exactly what to do, women with fast labours have got some really great stuff going on in their baby-makers! And sure, having the luxury of pain medication taken off the table would suck if that was a part of your original plans, but with things happening so fast that intensity happens fast too.

I’m glad that I was able to experience being a doula at a birth like this, as it really opened up my eyes and yet AGAIN proved to me just how unpredictable birth can be. Did you have a very fast birth? I’d love to hear you story, feel free to leave it in the comments section!


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