What Should You Do When Labor Doesn’t Go as Planned?

Operate RoomIt is good to have a labor plan. You should have one, and your partner or husband should know everything on it. You should give it to your obstetrician and to the nurses at the hospital when you get there. Hopefully, everything will go according to plan.

What if it doesn’t? You have to be ready for a change in plans if circumstances dictate a change. How could that happen? There could be some unanticipated reason your doctor can’t get there. Maybe he or she has an emergency of their own; maybe your labor goes quickly and the doctor is stuck in traffic. Maybe you have gone to visit someone a couple of hours away, having been told you won’t go into labor anytime soon, and you go into labor which comes on so quickly you can’t get home. If it is your first baby, you usually have plenty of time to get to the hospital, but there are some women whose first labor is remarkably short, and either they don’t get to the hospital or the doctor doesn’t get there on time.

Even stranger things could happen, and have happened to women in labor. There could be an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane, depending where you live. When fate or Mother Nature deals you a hand you were not anticipating, you have to be flexible. Try and get whatever help you can to make your labor and delivery what you want as much as possible.

Then there are medical problems, either yours or the baby’s, which mandate a change in your plans. All women want a healthy baby, along with a delivery that is normal without complications. Most of the time, that is what happens.

If you have significant medical problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or if you have asthma that is hard to control, you need a doctor that is comfortable managing high risk pregnancies. Often an obstetrician will work with a family practitioner or internist to help with your medical problems. Not every doctor is experienced enough to do this. If you have an unusual medical problem, you may be referred to a large teaching hospital or tertiary care facility, where the doctors have the most experience managing difficult pregnancies. This may limit the choices of where you give birth and how you give birth.

You can develop illnesses during pregnancy, or conditions you already have can get worse. A worsening medical condition can be a risk to the baby, as well as to you. If your life is in danger, or if your body is not able to provide the baby with everything needed through the placenta, sometimes the only solution is to deliver the baby as soon as possible.


If you go into premature labor, your doctor will probably try and stop or delay it if it is a long way from your due date. If labor can’t be stopped, there are medications you will be given to help the baby. Very premature infants need to be cared for in a Neonatal ICU (NICU), usually level III. If there is any reason that your doctor thinks you are at risk for preterm labor, he will recommend a hospital with the capability to take care of the baby. This may mean a different hospital than your first choice.

If there is a suspected problem with the baby, the same type of care may be needed. This could be because of something seen on a sonogram or discovered by amniocentesis. It can also be because you are having twins, or any multiple births.

In any situation where the mother or baby is at risk, achieving a good outcome has to be placed as a higher priority than your original birth plan. You can try and keep elements of it intact, but you should understand from the beginning that a plan is not a contract.

There is another way in which labor plans may change. You may change your mind. If this is your first pregnancy, you may discover that you don’t want what you thought you wanted. This is often true of pain medication. If you are overwhelmed by pain and want an epidural, for example, you should be able to ask for one. In this case, you should not be disappointed in yourself. You should give yourself the room to change your mind.

Hopefully you have picked an obstetrician who you like, and who knows what you want. He or she should only make changes that are absolutely necessary or that you request. Again, if you have found the right doctor for you, you should have faith in his or her judgment, and be willing to go along with a change in plans if it will get you what you want most, as healthy a baby as possible.

What do you think?

What Should You Do When Labor Doesn’t Go as Planned?

Tell us what you think!


  1. Profile photo of new_mamma new_mamma says:

    I am 39 weeks and my little guy still has not turned into the head down position, because he is still breech I am having a c section in two days. I am nervous about the surgery and after the surgery. I just want him to be healthy and to be able to function the way I need to after he is born.

  2. Profile photo of Julie Julie says:

    I just want my baby to be healthy. I am 37 weeks now so I am technically considered full term.

  3. Profile photo of ornella ornella says:

    lost a friend today while she was giving birth. makes me scared to have my third. Never know what can happen so i have no plans! All i need is a is a healthy baby 🙂

  4. Profile photo of malamonis malamonis says:

    i have my birth plan ready and i hope everything will go according to it! I’m keeping my fingers crossed!!!:)

  5. Profile photo of Joyziebell Joyziebell says:

    I had both my kids at 35 weeks and 1 day. We are officially past that mark with this one. Yay! Had a couple scares last week. They had to stop my labor with a couple shots and got a couple more shots of steroids to help develop baby’s lungs. I’m officially on bedrest and developed a cyst….very painful….near where delivery has to happen. Had it lanced & drained and am now on antibiotics. Talk about things not going as planned! (at least not my plans) 😉

  6. Profile photo of Julie Julie says:

    I am hoping to have a normal labor and my birth plan can be followed, but I understand that there are sometimes complications. I just hope none of us have any.

  7. I was in labor for 26 hours and my epidural ran out two hours before I finally gave birth to my son. I had to do the most difficult part on my own. I feel like a stronger woman for it. Ladies def. express concern if your labor progresses as slow as mine did, my son ended up being wedged in my pelvis and unable to pass through. My doc said I needed a C-section but I muscled on to force him through my pelvis. I should have asked more questions, but more importantly my doc and birthing team should have informed of my son’s condition sooner.

  8. Profile photo of Brittney Brittney says:

    It’s ok to be scared, I was terrified. But once you go to the hospital, just try to relax and focus on yourself. Put someone in charge of calling everyone or getting things you want done and just try to worry about yourself. If people stress you out, tell them to leave. Everything will work out fine, and good luck 🙂

  9. Profile photo of Brittney Brittney says:

    My son’s birth was really fast, I was at the hospital for maybe 2 and a half hours and he was born. I only pushed for thirty minutes max. Since he is my first and only it was a little terrifying when they told me that NICU nurses were going to have to be there. Thankfully my son was ok, just wanted to make sure when he had a bowel movement inside he didn’t inhale any.

  10. Profile photo of Grace Grace says:

    they never could get good readouts of my childrens heartbeats my labors they tell me were fast (during which i thought was taking forever), i think this labor will be quick too, all i want is to not hear from the nurses "don’t push the doctor is not here yet"… and a healthy baby…

  11. Profile photo of Tymarie Tymarie says:

    i am terrified of having to have a c-section! ive never had surgery, a broken bone, or anything serious in my life! the longest ive been in the hosp was 48 hrs after my oldest was born! hopefully things work out smoothly this time too!!! 🙂

  12. I had to have an emergency c-section with my first child and at the time it was the worst thing that could be happening…but after it was over and I was calm I realized I could do it again if I needed to. Now I am pregnant with my second baby and I am going for a VBAC so hopefully it will work out. I always try to look at it like this…I am in a hospital and they are professionals…if anything should ever go wrong let it happen here!

  13. Profile photo of nkbduckie nkbduckie says:

    I’ve given my husband a basic outline of what I want to happen in the delivery room, but in the end all I care about is that baby makes it into the world, and hopefully I stay in it too!

  14. Profile photo of mommy;hearts mommy;hearts says:

    thats what i told my doc i didnt ever want a c-section im scared of them just the thought

  15. Profile photo of mommy;hearts mommy;hearts says:

    it is hard to prepare for the labor but you wanna know something you will do just fine i thought when i went in there i was going to die but i didn’t.

  16. Profile photo of mommy;hearts mommy;hearts says:

    Dont be i thought i was be too But i did great i got the epil and the doc told me that i was a great pusher lol

  17. Profile photo of Sasoo Sasoo says:

    I’m with Annalicia. But you can’t really prepare for the unexpected. Just pray!

  18. Profile photo of stephani stephani says:

    They lost my sons heart beat and I wouldnt dialate it was so scary…I had to have a c-section..But its not as painful as most people say it is…If you have to do it you will get thouigh it.

  19. Profile photo of Annalicia Annalicia says:

    I am so nervous. I am trying to prepare myself for anything that comes but its pretty hard.

  20. Profile photo of Ashley Ashley says:

    im xcared to have a baby

  21. Profile photo of kadijah kadijah says:

    im really scared to have my baby!!

  22. Profile photo of Mary Mullard Mary Mullard says:

    im very worried about the delivery

  23. i’ve not had a c-section and the only time i will ever allow it is if it’s an emergency that is the only thing i’m strict on. anything else there’s room for change 🙂

  24. Profile photo of brandy brandy says:

    it got down to my son either comming out with my last push using forcips or i would have to undergo an emergency c section so thank god that last push was all it took