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Open Access Research article

Diverse definitions of prolonged labour and its consequences with sometimes subsequent inappropriate treatment

Astrid Nystedt1* and Ingegerd Hildingsson123

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nursing, Mid Sweden University, Holmgatan 10, 851 70 Sundsvall, Sweden

2 Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Uppsala University, 751 85 Uppsala, Sweden

3 Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Division of Reproductive and Perinatal Health Care, Karolinska Institutet, 171 76 Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:233  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-233

Published: 16 July 2014

Abstract

Background

Prolonged labour very often causes suffering from difficulties that may have lifelong implications. This study aimed to explore the prevalence and treatment of prolonged labour and to compare birth outcome and women’s experiences of prolonged and normal labour.

Method

Women with spontaneous onset of labour, living in a Swedish county, were recruited two months after birth, to a cross-sectional study. Women (n = 829) completed a questionnaire that investigated socio-demographic and obstetric background, birth outcome and women’s feelings and experiences of birth. The prevalence of prolonged labour, as defined by a documented ICD-code and inspection of partogram was calculated. Four groups were identified; women with prolonged labour as identified by documented ICD-codes or by partogram inspection but no ICD-code; women with normal labour augmented with oxytocin or not.

Results

Every fifth woman experienced a prolonged labour. The prevalence with the documented ICD-code was (13%) and without ICD-code but positive partogram was (8%). Seven percent of women with prolonged labour were not treated with oxytocin. Approximately one in three women (28%) received oxytocin augmentation despite having no evidence of prolonged labour. The length of labour differed between the four groups of women, from 7 to 23 hours.

Women with a prolonged labour had a negative birth experience more often (13%) than did women who had a normal labour (3%) (P <0.00). The factors that contributed most strongly to a negative birth experience in women with prolonged labour were emergency Caesarean section (OR 9.0, 95% CI 1.2-3.0) and to strongly agree with the following statement ‘My birth experience made me decide not to have any more children’ (OR 41.3, 95% CI 4.9-349.6). The factors that contributed most strongly to a negative birth experience in women with normal labour were less agreement with the statement ‘It was exiting to give birth’ (OR 0.13, 95% CI 0.34-0.5).

Conclusions

There is need for increased clinical skill in identification and classification of prolonged labour, in order to improve care for all women and their experiences of birthing processes regardless whether they experience a prolonged labour or not.

Keywords:
Birth experience; Dystocia; Prolonged labour