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Failure To Progress: The Movie

By ceridwen |

Failure to progress!

Ha! This video is a great illustration of why labor sometimes stalls in the hospital. “Failure to progress” is an oft-cited reason for c-sections and/or the use of medication (pitocin) to get labor going.

With the rates of interventions during labor so high, you’ve got to wonder why labors are stalling all the time. There are many reasons why failure to progress could happen, but one of them has to do with something so simple: privacy. It’s common for contractions to slow down when you get to the hospital and suddenly there are people checking you, fluorescent lights and clipboards.

Midwife and author, Ina May Gaskin is famous for talking about the Sphincter Law: We seize up our pelvic muscles when we are tense, scared and/or feeling *watched* or judged. Here’s a really short and clever video illustrating how this works.


It’s funny watching this because I actually tell my childbirth education students: If your labor is slowing down in triage (the check-in process in the hospital) get into your room, shut the door, turn down the lights and block everyone out for a while to let the labor get it’s groove back.

Or just go into the bathroom by yourself and labor on the toilet for an hour. Seriously, women sometimes go in for a pee and don’t want to come out. It’s partly the squat/open seat but it’s also the privacy and association with letting pelvic muscles go. Unless your baby is crowning (head coming out) there’s no reason not to sit on the toilet in labor to help things get going. I heard recently of a women who chanted during each contraction, “shut the door, shut the door.” I love this! We want privacy. Not because we’re all modest. But because birth and peeing and orgasm prefer safe, intimate settings.

Oxytocin, the main hormone of labor, is also released in the dark, when you feel safe, when you fall in love, during breastfeeding and orgasm. It doesn’t flow easily when there’s lots of stress. So again, shut the door, shut the door, shut the door.

Thank you to Debra Pascali-Bonaro for tipping me off to this video.

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About ceridwen



Ceridwen Morris is a writer, mother, and certified childbirth educator. She is the author of several books and screenplays, including (Three Rivers; 2007). She serves on the board of The Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan New York and teaches at Tribeca Parenting in New York City. Read bio and latest posts → Read Ceridwen's latest posts →

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