Failing to Progress or Naturally Aligning
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

Failing to Progress or Naturally Aligning

Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Payson  We have had a couple of students have had textbook “NAPS” in the last two classes…and since we still have several couples waiting for their babies, I thought this might be a reminder and an inspiration to them for their labors.  NAP – no, they didn’t take epic naps in labor (although I am a big advocate for sleeping in labor)…what it means is that they were very patient in their labors.   

One of the cornerstones of The Bradley Method® is a Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby outcome.  All of the discussion below only applies if Mom and Baby are not showing any signs of distress through labor.  Mom is maintaining a healthy temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, and Baby is also showing that it is doing well as per the monitoring that is being done.  If Mom or Baby are starting to demonstrate that their health is compromised, then parents are encouraged to make the best choices for their particular situation.   

The words “Failure To Progress” are the sound of doom to some of us (I say "us" because I heard this three times!).  They very often mean that interventions are going to start being suggested.  How a couple acts upon those suggestions is very individual.  Marjie Hathaway coined the phrase “Natural Alignment Plateau”, or “NAP” as an answer to the dreaded “diagnosis”: “FTP”, or “Failure To Progress”.    

Failure To Progress is based on the Friedman’s Curve*.  It looks like this: 
 As human beings, it is in our nature to see this neat, explainable graph and say, “It’s a rule!” This can have dire implications whilst in labor if you really want a natural birth.  There are no averages in the midst of a labor – each labor on is unique and individual.  

Mathematically, it’s unfair for all labors to be expected to fit the average.  That brings in another concept we teach in The Bradley Method® classes: consumerism and informed consent.  If there is time: ask questions, ask for time, and then communicate and evaluate what you have heard with your partner before you decide on a course of action.   

  • It is important to remember that the graph is AN AVERAGE representation of labor.  It indicates that a mom should dilate 1 cm per hour, and push an average of 3 hours – for an average length of labor that is between 12-14 hours long.    
  • Math class reminder:  The average number is the number you get when you add all of the data in a set of information, and then divide that total number by the number of units that provided the data.  Applied to laboring mothers: That means that there will be some people that have labors much shorter than 14 hours, and other people that have labors much longer than 14 hours, more will be around that number…and then a few will be right on with the average.  


When a mom does not progress in dilation from one vaginal exam to the next, or between several vaginal exams, she may be diagnosed with “Failure To Progress”, and along come the string of possible interventions.  They can include any or all of the following, along with other interventions: an Amniotomy (intentional rupture of the bag of waters), augmentation of labor with Pitocin, an Epidural to take of the edge of Pitocin-induced contractions, a Cesarean.  

A cesarean may also be suggested if the care team suspects that the baby may not fit through mom's pelvis.  Diagnosed as "CPD", this is the subject for another post altogether.  For now, check the link I listed below* for more information.

Instead of accepting the words, “Failure To Progress”, Marjie decided to suggest a new phrase to her students: “Natural Alignment Plateau”.  NAP instead of FTP.  Natural Alignment Plateau is a different way of approaching that point in labor when dilation does not change.  What we teach in class and hope that our students will remember when they face this crossroads is, "Labor is much more than dilation."   

Labor can be slow to start, dilation can stop and/or contractions can slow down for many reasons.  Here are some to consider: 

  •  Did you change locations where Mom is laboring? 
  •  Is Baby posterior? (Click here for ideas to move baby)
  •  Is Baby trying to figure out how to line up in the birth canal? 
  •  Is there an emotional component that hasn’t been dealt with? 
  •  Is Mom tired and does she need a nap? 
  •  Is Mom making more hormones for labor? 
  •  Is Mom's pelvis still stretching (and using the extra hormones) for baby to fit?
  •  Is the Baby's head still molding for the passage through the birth canal?
  •  Is Mom making more colostrum for baby? 
  •  Has Mom surrendered to the birth? 
  •  Has Baby accepted the birth process?  


If your labor has been slow to start after a spontaneous rupture of membranes, or if you are seemingly “stuck” at a measurement of dilation, it might be time to evaluate what could be going on and change tactics: 

  •  Try a new labor position. 
  •  Go for a walk to clear your heads. 
  •  Take a nap to conserve your energy (It’s hard for a care provider to argue with a dad or doula who is protective of a sleeping mom.)  
  •  "Talk" to your baby and encourage them that you are ready to meet him/her. 


If Mom and Baby are doing well, you can ask for time.  There is not a medical reason for an intervention if Mom and Baby are doing well in labor and your care team confirms that Mom and Baby are okay.  Here are two examples for you to consider and think about if you face a point in labor when there is no measurable progress.   

We had a mom from our Winter class go from 6 cm dilated (usually considered Active First Stage – not yet in Late First Stage) to holding her baby in 21 minutes.  Yes – you read that correctly.  She went from what most care professionals would consider mid-range in labor to holding her baby in 21 minutes…that meant she pushed within that time, too, folks.  Hers was an emotional component.  She was waiting for her mom to arrive.  Once her mom arrived at the hospital and stepped into the room where she and her husband were laboring, her baby and her body got busy.  They dilated a total of 4 cm from 6 cm to “complete” at 10 cm, then pushed, and they were holding their baby in 21 minutes.   

Our other story is from our Spring Class.  Mom had a slow start to labor.  She had started seeing some clear fluid on Sunday, noticed some more on Monday, and went to the hospital on Tuesday.  They tested her fluid and it was amniotic fluid.  Although they were in triage and barely 1 cm dilated, the couple was strongly encouraged to be admitted.  Now they are into the hospital and the expectations of “Friedman’s Curve.”  

This couple did a great job of asking, “Is Mom okay? Is Baby Okay?” After getting their “Yes” answers, then they followed up with, “That’s great!  Then let’s wait a couple more hours and see where we are.”  And sure enough, the next time the staff and their care provider checked in, they were a little further along in labor.  Once things got going, this mom went from being 4 cm dilated to 8 cm dilated in one hour!  Within two hours of that point, they were holding their baby.   

The great news about hitting the NAP is that once the Mom’s body and Baby “get organized”, labor seems to progress very quickly.  Again, remember what I said at the beginning – things go well when a Healthy Mom and a Healthy Baby are given the time they need.  If Mom or Baby start to indicate that “healthy” is losing out, then a family needs to make the best choice for their situation.   

What has been your experience – have you had a NAP in your labor?  What choices did you make?   

For a full explanation of Friedman’s Curve click here or enter this URL into your browser: http://allaboutbirth.net/pdfs/Failure-to-progress.pdf    

Disclaimer:  
 The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation.  Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.  This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®. 

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