Precipitate Labour – Causes, Symptoms and Management

Precipitate Labour - Causes, Symptoms and Management

Labour and birth are very difficult and painful times for women… a time that is looked at with the most dread by mothers to be. When labour starts, there is usually a waiting gap between each stage of labour, but when it comes to women going through precipitate labour, everything happens very quickly. Though in some cases it comes as a blessed relief, in others it can be a bit more complicated than that.

What is Precipitate Labour

Precipitate labour, also called fast or rapid labour, is the term given to the case when a woman goes into labour and has her baby within three hours. Only around two in a hundred women will end up having precipitate labour.

There are some women who do not even know they are in labour as there is no pain and remain oblivious until they find themselves in the second stage of labour, which is when your baby’s head will begin to descend, and you will feel the urge to start pushing. The contractions of the uterus in these cases happen so painlessly that it is not detected by the mother at all.

Contractions are the first stage of labour and usually build up in intensity as labour progresses. So, women who are going through precipitate labour can sometimes experience very intense cramps right from the start.

Causes of Fast Labour

Certain factors can work together to make it possible for you to go into precipitous labour. Individually, these factors will not necessarily mean that it will occur, but they put you at a higher risk for it.

  • Those who have very strong uteri and that contract with all its might when in labour
  • A very smooth birth canal
  • History of precipitate labour
  • A baby who is smaller than the average size
  • When prostaglandin is used to induce labour
  • If you have conceived using fertility treatments

Signs of Rapid Labour

There are some signs of precipitate labour complications that are expecting mothers should look out for so they can be aware if they are going into precipitate labour. Here are some:

  • Contractions that are very close together and that do not leave you with much recovery time between them
  • An intense pain throughout, that feels like it is one long contraction.
  • An urge to push that emerges very suddenly; it is similar to the feeling during a bowel movement

Woman in precipitate labour

Risks and Complications of Fast Labour

Any birthing plan that you made can be thrown out the window since you will most likely not be able to recover enough to implement them. It is especially risky because there is not enough time to get to the hospital and it is likely that the baby may be born in an unsterile environment. The risks to mother and child are not the same; here are some of the risks and complications:

1. For the Mother

  • Damage to the vagina and cervix in the form of tearing and lacerations
  • Haemorrhage in the uterus or vagina
  • A state of shock after the sudden and quick birth leading to increased delivery time
  • Having your baby in an unwanted and unhygienic environment
  • Retained placenta, which is when some or the entire placenta is still inside the mother and does not get expelled.

2. For the Baby

  • There is a risk of infection to your little one if he or she is born in an unsanitary place.
  • The baby could accidentally inhale the amniotic fluid.

How to Cope With Precipitate Labour

Nobody can really do anything to control the speed at which your baby is born if you have precipitate labour, but there are ways to manage it. Precipitate labour management include:

  • Either calls your doctor, midwife or the emergency number but you need to get a professional’s help as soon as possible. If you have a doula, she will need to be contacted as well.
  • Lie down either on your back or side.
  • Remain in a clean space
  • Take deep breaths and think about calming things


Here are some frequently asked questions related to precipitate labour:

1. Does Rapid Labour Have Any Emotional Effect on the Mother?

Precipitate labour can cause emotional changes to the mother because of everything that the mother goes through during labour and can be hard to manage as the mother often feels like things are out of control due to everything happening so fast and with no time to even recover. This time can be very emotional and stressful.

2. If You Had Precipitate Labour Last Time,What are the Odds of Having It Again?

If you have had precipitate labour before, then the chances of it happening are higher, but that does not mean it will happen. Perhaps the pregnancy takes a different turn altogether from last time.

3. Can Labour Induction Prevent Another Precipitous Labour?

No, it is more likely that labour induction causes the precipitous labour to occur rather than prevent it as is true when using something like prostaglandin. Your doctor is very unlikely to suggest that you induce labour as it can also increase the risk of other inventions, like assisted birth.

4. How Should I Plan for Another Fast Labour?

If you have been known to have previously had precipitate labour, then your doctor is more likely to suggest that you give birth in a labour ward. This will prevent your baby from being born in an unwanted place like at home or in the car and will reduce the likelihood of any infections being contracted due to unsanitary situations. If you still feel unsure as to whether or not you will be able to get to the hospital on time, you can always have a midwife or ambulance sent over to the house. If you feel like you may be out a lot, it is best that you pack some things that you may need and keep it with you, so you have them in case you go into labour outside. Pack absorbent mats so that you have somewhere clean to give birth on, clean towel and blanket for baby, clean clothes for yourself, plastic bag for the placenta and maternity pads.

Not all women end up with the average labour that takes some time to build up and so it can be quite unpredictable. Being prepared for any given situation is the best and walk into it with your eyes wide open to the different possibilities.

Also Read:

Tips for Easy Labor and Delivery
When and How to Push during Labour & Delivery?
Best Positions To Try during Labour and Delivery