Precipitous Labour

The fast and the furious…no I’m not talking about cars I’m talking about babies and labour. We spend a lot of time educating ourselves that labour isn’t like the movies. But what happens when it is?

This is known as precipitous labour and is the medical term for fast labour. Fast labour is considered to be 3 hours or less from the start of contractions to birth. Only 3 in 100 women experience precipitous labour. But it’s important to be aware of some of the warning signs and implications of a precipitous labour, especially if you have previously had fairly fast labours.

Some women who have a precipitous labour might not even be aware they are in labour as the uterus contracts fairly painlessly, it’s not until they get to the second stage of labour and they feel baby’s head descending or get the urge to push that labour becomes a reality for them.

Although labour is short, for other women they report that the contractions are more intense as they don’t build gradually over time as with longer labours.

Regardless of whether you are anticipating a short labour or not, a birth plan is the key to ensuring you are physically and mentally prepared.

As time isn’t on your side when it comes to short labours, here are some questions to ask yourself :

  • Do you want to birth in hospital? If so it’s important to plan your route to avoid delays and go to hospital at the first signs of labour
  • Do you want a home birth so that an ambulance and/or midwife can come to you? Avoiding the need to factor in the travel and the wait time to be examined

There is no common reason why some women experience fast labour, it is thought that some connection can be made to it being hereditary or perhaps in some cases there may be underlying concerns with the pregnancy.

Although a fast labour would be on most women’s wish list there might be unexpected emotional and physical implications for both mum and baby as a result:

  • Sometimes the intensity of contractions can cause complications for baby
  • Often the ‘come down’ for mum after the adrenaline of labour can be more apparent due to the speed and intensity of the experience
  • You may experience more physical trauma and greater severity of tearing
  • Baby may have more fluid retention in their lungs due to the reduced time in the birth canal which is naturally expelled by the pressure whilst moving through birth canal

If you feel a precipitous birth might be on the cards for you its suggested to talk to your doctor and midwife in advance and create a birth plan with this in mind.

Planning for all eventualities in birth is advanced as it always you to feel a greater sense of control and feel more positive regardless of the path your birth takes.

Birth planning is something that we focus on in my hypnobirthing classes, for more information please visit my website at


By Ellie Dearden
Hypnobirthing Instructor with Born to Birth Company


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