Birth Definitions

Dystocia Definition

The term dystocia refers to labor exceeding 12 to 24 hours or else indicating difficulties, and is defined as abnormal or difficult labor. It is a term used to describe a situation in which the baby is unable to exit the mother’s body through the birth canal. This may be due to the baby being too large, the mother’s pelvis being too small, or the baby being in an incorrect position. Dystocia can also occur when the baby’s head is not engaged in the pelvis.

Types of Abnormalities that Cause Dystocia

Several abnormalities cause dystocia and these are cephalopelvic disproportion, malpresentation, mechanical obstruction, and macrosomia.

Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) is the most common type of dystocia. It occurs when the baby’s head is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvic opening. Malpresentation, on the other hand, is when the baby is not in the correct position for delivery. Mechanical obstruction is when there is some sort of blockage in the birth canal that prevents the baby from being born. Macrosomia is a condition in which the baby is larger than normal.

Types of Dystocia

Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia is a type of dystocia that can occur when the baby’s shoulder becomes stuck in the birth canal. This can rapidly lead to hypoxia and death of the fetus if not delivered quickly because the baby’s chest cannot expand.

Cervical dystocia

Cervical dystocia is a type of dystocia that can occur the cervix fails to dilate during labor and causes the baby’s head to become stuck in the birth canal. This can be very dangerous for both the mother and the baby, and often requires intervention from a doctor or midwife.

Other similar terms:

The following are terms similar to dystocia:

  • eutocia – normal, easy labor
  • oxytocia – rapid labor
  • precipitous labor – labor that progresses quickly
  • prolonged labor – labor that lasts more than 12 hours
  • obstructed labor – labor that is blocked or slowed down because the baby cannot move through the birth canal easily

This image shows how often the term ‘Dystocia’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:

Risks Associated With Dystocia

Dystocia has several complications associated with it, including fetal distress, damage to the baby’s nerves and muscles, meconium aspiration, cord prolapse, perinatal asphyxia, fetal death, and damage to the mother’s bladder and bowel.

Diagnosis and Management

Dystocia can be diagnosed by using a combination of maternal and fetal monitoring. Natural and non-intrusive ways of managing dystocia include using upright positions and squatting while giving birth, changing the mother’s diet and hydration, and using massage and acupuncture. Using a birth stool, or using a birthing pool also helps.

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