Labor that progresses too slowly may involve slow movement of the fetus through the birth canal because the fetus is too large or is abnormally positioned, the birth canal is too small, or the uterus contracts too weakly.
If labor is progressing too slowly, the fetus may be too big to move through the birth canal (pelvis and vagina). Or the fetus may be in an abnormal position. Sometimes the uterus cannot contract forcefully or often enough to keep the fetus moving.
Doctors estimate the size of the fetus and birth canal and check the fetus's position. They also check the strength and timing of contractions. These factors determine treatment.
If the birth canal is big enough for the fetus but labor is not progressing, the woman is given oxytocin intravenously to stimulate the uterus to contract more forcefully. If oxytocin is unsuccessful, a cesarean delivery is necessary. If the baby is already in position to be delivered, a vacuum extractor or forceps may be used instead. If the fetus is too big, cesarean delivery is done.
Last full review/revision June 2013 by Julie S. Moldenhauer, MD