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Augmentation or Slowing of Labor

By Julie S. Moldenhauer, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology in Surgery, The Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit; Attending Physician, The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; The University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

Augmentation of labor is the artificial hastening of labor that is proceeding ineffectively or too slowly. Oxytocin is a drug used to stimulate the uterus to contract more forcefully (to augment labor). Labor is augmented when women have contractions that are not effectively opening (dilating) the cervix or moving the fetus through the birth canal.

Slowing of labor is the artificial delaying of labor. It is done when contractions are too strong and/or too close together. Such contractions may endanger the fetus and substantially increase the woman's pain. If oxytocin was used to stimulate contractions, it is stopped immediately. The woman may be repositioned and given analgesics. If no drug was used to stimulate contractions, the woman may be given a drug that can slow labor (such as terbutaline, given by injection) to stop or slow the contractions.

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