Obstructed labour, also known as labour dystocia, is the baby not exiting the pelvis because it is physically blocked during childbirth although the uterus contracts normally. Complications for the baby include not getting enough oxygen which may result in death. It increases the risk of the mother getting an infection, having uterine rupture, or having post-partum bleeding. Long-term complications for the mother include obstetrical fistula. Obstructed labour is said to result in prolonged labour, when the active phase of labour is longer than 12 hours.

The main causes of obstructed labour include a large or abnormally positioned baby, a small pelvis, and problems with the birth canal. Abnormal positioning includes shoulder dystocia where the anterior shoulder does not pass easily below the pubic bone. Risk factors for a small pelvis include malnutrition and a lack of exposure to sunlight causing vitamin D deficiency. It is also more common in adolescence as the pelvis may not have finished growing by the time they give birth. Problems with the birth canal include a narrow vagina and perineum which may be due to female genital mutilation or tumors. A partograph is often used to track labour progression and diagnose problems. This combined with physical examination may identify obstructed labour.

The treatment of obstructed labour may require cesarean section or vacuum extraction with possible surgical opening of the symphysis pubis. Other measures include: keeping the women hydrated and antibiotics if the membranes have been ruptured for more than 18 hours. In Africa and Asia obstructed labor affects between two and five percent of deliveries. In 2015 about 6.5 million cases of obstructed labour or uterine rupture occurred. This resulted in 23,000 maternal deaths down from 29,000 deaths in 1990 (about 8% of all deaths related to pregnancy). It is also one of the leading causes of stillbirth. Most deaths due to this condition occur in the developing world.

Broader Problems:
Complications of childbirth
Related Problems:
Dystocia in animals
Medicine Reproductive system
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Problem Type:
G: Very specific problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST