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"Labor dystocia" is a term a mother may never hear, but it accounts for about two-thirds of all cesarean sections performed today in the United States. Also known as "failure to progress," it's characterized by a significant slowing or cessation of the fetus's descent or the cervix's dilatation (sometimes both) during labor.
What Causes Labor Dystocia?
It may involve one or a combination of several factors. First, the contractile or expulsive forces of the uterus in all stages of labor may lack strength or coordination. Second, the fetus simply may not fit due to size or position. Third, there may be an abnormality of the bony pelvis; perhaps one or more bones may be too small to accommodate the fetus or there may be a malformation or old fracture that impedes progress. Let's examine each possibility more closely.
Your Uterus and Contractions
The uterus is made up of longitudinal and transverse muscle fibers that must work in unison, causing the upper part of the uterus to thicken and the lower part to thin. Sometimes, muscle fibers may be weakened or may not function in a coordinated way. This may occur in preterm labor when there are too few oxytocin receptors present or in the early stages of normal labor before activity becomes coordinated. Overdistension of the uterus may also cause lack of efficient contraction if the fetus is very large, or if there's more than one. Fatigue or dehydration may cause the uterus to "tire." The laboring mom's emotions, such as fear, may also have a negative impact on the level of contractions.