the absurd “P’s” of childbirth

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Here’s a common labor scenario: you’ve been in active labor for awhile and it seems you’re stuck. You were 5-6 centimeters dilated a few hours ago, and you’re still 5-6 cm dilated even after several hours of hard, active labor. So your doctor or midwife diagnoses you with failure to progress.

Your caregiver starts the 3 p’s talk. Something must be wrong. It’s either the passageway, passenger, or power. Your birth canal seems fine, big enough for the baby, so it’s not the passageway. The baby is handling your labor great, not showing any signs of distress on the EFM (electronic fetal monitor) and doesn’t seem too big, so the problem isn’t the passenger. So it must be the power. Your contractions just aren’t strong enough. Therefore, you need pitocin to make your contractions stronger, more powerful to dilate your cervix to ten. That’s what your OB/GYN tells you.

p1Passageway? Passenger? Power? Who first came up with this ridiculous way to evaluate labor? Totally absurd. How about patience. The fourth p in labor should not be pitocin, it should be patience. As long as mom and baby are doing fine, patience is called for.

I just described an example of where even with an active labor pattern, dilation seemingly stops. Another example that the 3 p’s of labor is brought up is when labor just stops or slows down. A woman who had been having long, hard, and strong contractions suddenly finds her contractions shorter and not so hard and spaced apart. This isn’t her body shutting down; it’s her body resting.

How marvelous our bodies have been designed to labor in this way. Our bodies have the ability to start and stop labor as needed. Enjoy and savor these resting minutes. You are regaining your strength for more work ahead. But all too often in the hospital, a laboring woman is diagnosed with failure to progress and told her body shut down and just can’t labor and she is given pitocin or worse, wheeled to the OR when all that is needed is just a little time.

Patience, ladies. Patience.Trust your body to birth your baby. You can read the birth story of my third baby where my labor kept on stopping, and with time and patience, the baby finally was born.