Official reprint from UpToDate®
www.uptodate.com ©2017 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.

Precipitous birth not occurring on a labor and delivery unit

Vanessa A Barss, MD, FACOG
Section Editors
Vincenzo Berghella, MD
Allan B Wolfson, MD
Deputy Editor
Kristen Eckler, MD, FACOG


Each year, hundreds of deliveries in the United States occur precipitously in emergency departments as well as outside of the hospital setting. In most of these cases, labor and delivery results in good outcomes in the absence of physician/midwife intervention or a traditional delivery site.

This topic will review the key points for assisting women during an imminent delivery of a fetus in cephalic presentation. It is intended for health care providers who do not perform obstetrical deliveries as part of their usual practice. Related topics on labor and delivery are presented in detail elsewhere.

(See "Management of normal labor and delivery".)

(See "Normal and abnormal labor progression".)


The term precipitate or precipitous labor has been defined as a labor that lasts no more than three hours from onset of regular contractions to delivery [1]. Precipitous delivery is generally thought to result from abnormally low resistance of the birth canal, abnormally strong uterine contractions, lack of awareness of painful contractions, or some combination of these [2].

To continue reading this article, you must log in with your personal, hospital, or group practice subscription. For more information on subscription options, click below on the option that best describes you:

Subscribers log in here

Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 27, 2017.
The content on the UpToDate website is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. The use of this website is governed by the UpToDate Terms of Use ©2017 UpToDate, Inc.