Precipitate Labour (Fast Labour): Causes, Signs & Management

Precipitate Labour – Causes, Symptoms and Management

Labour and childbirth are the most challenging and painful phases of pregnancy. Most mothers-to-be dread facing it and hope it gets over quickly. When labour starts, there is usually a 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. Read this article to know everything about precipitate labour.

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 two hours. Only around two in a hundred women will end up experiencing precipitate labour.

In some cases, women 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 the baby’s head begins to descend. That’s when the women feel the urge to start pushing. The contraction, in this case, happens so painlessly that it is not detected by the mother at all.

In other cases, women could experience intense cramps right from the start, as opposed to experiencing contractions, which are mild at the first stage and build up in intensity as labour progresses.

Labour can be uncertain and can be triggered by several causes. Let’s take a look at the causes of precipitate labour.

Causes of Fast/Precipitate Labour

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

  • Strong uteri that contract with all its might when in labour.
  • A smooth birth canal.
  • History of precipitate labour.
  • Baby’s size smaller than the average size.
  • Use of prostaglandin to induce labour.
  • Conception using fertility treatments.

Expectant mothers should have enough knowledge about precipitate labour to be able to identify it if they happen to experience it. Read on to know the signs of rapid labour.

Signs of Precipitate Labour

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

  • Contractions that are very close together and that do not leave you with much recovery time between them.
  • 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

Fast labour requires immediate medical attention. One might think precipitate labour would relieve the mother-to-be in a couple of hours; however, rapid contractions and labour could lead to other complications too, which we shall talk about now.

Risks and Complications of Precipitate Labour

Any birthing plan that you made can be thrown out of the window since you will most likely not be able to recover enough to implement them when you are experiencing precipitate labour. It is especially risky because there is not enough time to get to the hospital to deliver the baby in a sterile environment. Here are some more risks precipitate labour can pose for the mother and the child:

  • The mother’s vagina and cervix could get damaged due to tearing and lacerations during labour.
  • The uterus or the vagina could haemorrhage.
  • The mother could go into a state of shock after sudden and quick labour, which in turn can lead to increased delivery time.
  • The baby could be born in an unwanted and unhygienic environment.
  • There is a risk of infection to the baby if he is born in an unsanitary place.
  • The baby could accidentally inhale the amniotic fluid.
  • Rapid labour and delivery could lead to a retained placenta, which is when some or the entire placenta is still inside the mother as it does not get expelled.

Expectant mothers should also know how to cope with rapid labour in case they happen to experience one.

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:

  • If you have had a history of rapid labour, it is better to get yourself admitted in the hospital when the due date is nearing.
  • If you are experiencing precipitate labour for the first time, either call your doctor, midwife, or the emergency number 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 in a clean space till help arrives.
  • Take deep breaths and think about calming things.
  • Have someone by your side till you get medical attention.
  • You can go for a home birth if there’s not enough time to go to the hospital. But, ensure you have a midwife to assist you through.


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 in the mother because of stress or shock. It can be hard to manage as the mother often feels things are out of control with no or less gap between labour pains.

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

If you have had precipitate labour before, the chances of it happening again are higher. But, there have been cases wherein expectant mothers who have experienced rapid labour before have had normal labour, too. The course the labour would take as it progresses is different in each woman’s case.

3. Can Labour Induction Prevent Another Precipitous Labour?

No, it is more likely that labour induction causes precipitous labour 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.

4. How Should I Plan for Another Fast Labour?

If you 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, such as at home or in the car. It will also 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 and require time to reach the hospital, it is best to pack absorbent mats, towels, extra clothing, blanket, plastic bags, maternity pads etc., which can be used in case you go into labour before you reach the hospital. As much as possible, try to have a medical expert with you when you go into labour, and get someone to take you to the hospital immediately after childbirth.

Not all women end up with the average labour that takes some time to build up; therefore, labour can be quite unpredictable. Being prepared for any given situation is the best way to get through if you face it.

Also Read:

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

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