Precipitous labor, also called rapid labor, is defined as giving birth after less than 3 hours of regular contractions.
This may sound like a great thing for some considering that on average mothers labor for about 24 hours at times. However, what comes with a precipitous labor is sometimes panic, uncertainty and even a birth plan that is completely different then what was expected. One of the things we constantly tell our mommas is that labor can be long and drawn out and can be taxing on the body if you're not fully prepared. Most providers don't speak about having a precipitous birth because it generally is rare and does not happen to everyone. Midwives in general have lots of experience with this type of labor and birth because our mommas are able to go into labor naturally at home where they are most comfortable. The majority of mothers who know that they have fast labors will choose a Midwife to help prevent from having the baby in the car on the way to the hospital. It's less stress on them and their family knowing that they will be home or close to a birth center that wouldn't have a difficult check in process of parking the car, going through security and then sitting in triage until a room is ready. All necessary for that setting but staying home or going to a birth center is literally just communicating with your Midwife and her getting a room or tub set up quickly. Sometimes it's even a matter of just getting some gloves on and catching a baby in the parking lot. Mothers who expect a precipitous birth typically have had one before and try everything possible to prepare for it. Birth is unpredictable but preparing mentally and physically is always helpful. One story that is a perfect example of this is of a momma who had a 3-4 hour labor with her first baby. First births especially, are typically 24 hours on average so that alone was not average at all. Her second birth we knew she'd be quick but really didn't know how quick because these babies love to surprise us Midwives. Well, from water rupturing and having no contractions until about 20 minutes later, this baby came in 45 minutes. Needless to say, she did not make it into the birth center and was born in the car. Thankfully everything was well and they both did amazing. So this last birth, baby number 3 which we always call the wild card was planned very differently. We all decided it would be best for her to stay home so that it would be easier for her with the other children too. Mom really wanted to experience a few hours of labor (yes she actually said that outloud). She wanted to be able to call her birth team with enough time to arrive and set up the tub so that she could have the water birth she'd dreamt about for the last 2 babies. As we approached her normal time for delivery, we spoke more about when to call and what to do. She was extremely worried about setting up the tub so we lent her a tub for her husband to set up before we arrived. This gave her relief and peace knowing that at least she'd have that. She said she has been talking to the baby every day and praying for how she'd want this birth to go. Her wishes were that it would be in the day so she didn't have to worry about her husband leaving to pick up her kids from school. She wanted to have a sign that would allow her to call us without panic and she wanted the tub to be set up for her to give birth to her baby. Well, as we talk about all of the time the mind is a very powerful thing. Her labor and birth went exactly how she wanted this time. Still precipitous because it was only 3 hours from the first contraction but this time her Midwives were there, her doula was there and she had a beautiful calm water birth surrounded by her family. The moral of the story is having a precipitous birth can be stressful and overwhelming but having a plan and supportive team to help facilitate either type of labor and birth can really give peace of mind for the birthing mom and everyone around her.