Protractions and arrests of dilatation happen much more commonly with first-time mothers than with experienced mothers. It’s as though the uterus is inexperienced during the first labor. As many as 30% of first-time mothers will have a protraction or arrest of the progress of labor.
Often the body is just taking a rest, or has been disturbed in some way. Wild animals and even many domestic animals will stop labor altogether if they are disturbed. The human female may have a similar mechanism at work. Sometimes a women is unable to relax enough to allow her body to “do its thing”. Sometimes pain medications, epidurals and even confinement to bed will protract or arrest labor, especially Latent Phase labor. Some protractions and arrests are signs that the baby is in a “malposition” or a sign of a significantly large fetus.
“Tincture of time” cures most protractions and arrests of labor. If the mother and baby are tolerating the stresses of labor well, patience may be one of the better options in addressing this. A shower, a bath or walking may help the labor get back on track.
A protraction or arrest of an hour or two in a healthy mother and baby will not cause a problem itself. A woman already exhausted may become a bit more fatigued. However, if a mother has a problem (for example, high blood pressure or a fever), and/or the baby is showing signs (by its heart rate) that it is not tolerating labor well, a midwife or doctor may want to intervene to get the labor moving. This is usually done with the help of Pitocin.
When Pitocin is used, a woman will need an IV (an intravenous catheter), and will probably need to be in bed and monitored with an electronic fetal monitor.