Failure to Progress
(Unsatisfactory Progress of Labor)
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Failure to progress (FTP) happens when labor slows and delays delivery of the baby. Before labor starts, the cervix thins out and starts to open. With FTP, this may not happen.
Once labor starts, the baby should move down the birth canal at a certain pace.
The cause of FTP may be linked to:
Sometimes, the cause is not known.
Factors that may increase the risk of FTP include:
Labor has more than one phase. The active phase means the cervix:
Once active labor has started, the baby should move down the birth canal at a certain pace. The baby's progress is either slower than this pace or it or stops.
The doctor will check:
FTP can be diagnosed based on this if the mother is in the active phase of labor.
The doctor may use a monitor to find out how the uterus is contracting. A device is placed into the uterus. It can count how many contractions there are, how long they last, how powerful they are, and how much time goes by between each one.
Treatment is aimed at starting labor or speeding it up. This can be done with:
FTP can cause stress on the mother and baby, leading to problems. Delivery options include:
Medicine can be used to ease pain at any time. It is usually done with a spinal injection called an epidural. This will numb the belly and legs.
There is no way to prevent FTP because the cause is not known.
Office on Women's Health
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters—Women's College Hospital
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Labor dystocia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115364/Labor-dystocia. Updated March 6, 2015. Accessed March 7, 2019.
Labor induction. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Labor-Induction. Updated September 2017. Accessed March 7, 2019.
Protracted labor. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Labor-Inductionhttps://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/abnormalities-and-complications-of-labor-and-delivery/protracted-labor. Updated June 2018. Accessed March 7, 2019.
Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN
Last Updated: 3/7/2019
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