What Are the Most Common Childbirth Complications?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 May 2020
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Numerous childbirth complications are possible during the process of delivering a baby. Some of those complications put the mother at risk, while others may put the child at risk of injury or death. Infection is a common complication for both the mother and the child, and since the mother is likely to incur vaginal damage in some cases, an infection risk may be higher. Abnormal presentations are childbirth complications in which the baby is coming through the birth canal in a direction other than head first. A head-first orientation is the smoothest and safest passage for the child and mother.

A breech birth, for example, occurs when the baby comes through the birth canal buttocks first. This raises the risk to the baby and to the mother; this presentation can lead to vaginal tearing as well as a protracted and painful birthing process. The baby, too, is at risk of injury, as advancing through the birth canal head first means the narrowest part of the baby's body is approaching first. This reduces the risk of the umbilical cord getting tangled around the baby, which can result in suffocation. A breech birth means the baby is more at risk for childbirth complications.

An umbilical cord prolapse is a serious condition that will require immediate medical attention. This is one of the more serious childbirth complications because it puts the child's life at risk. The umbilical cord may begin to advance down the birth canal before the child does, thereby cutting off blood flow to the baby. The umbilical cord is essentially the baby's lifeline, and if it gets cut off, the result may be the death of the child before birth takes place. A mother may see the umbilical cord protruding from the vagina, or will at least feel it. If this occurs, the mother should seek medical attention immediately to prevent further childbirth complications associated with this condition.

if the umbilical cord becomes compressed during childbirth, the risk of injury to the child is elevated. The umbilical cord can become wrapped around the child or otherwise compressed within the mother, leading to a drop in the fetus's heart rate. This is usually not too much of a cause for concern, since the baby moves through the birth canal fairly quickly, though if the heart rate is affected for a prolonged period of time or the heart rate continues to drop, a cesarean section procedure may be necessary to get the child out of the mother quickly.

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