There are a number of complications that can
arise and procedures that can occur during labor
and delivery. In 2004, repair of a current obstetric
laceration and cesarean section were the two
most common obstetrical procedures among
women aged 15–44 years, according to hospital
discharge data (occurring during 99.4 and
98.7 hospital stays per 10,000 women, respectively).
Other common procedures were artificial
rupture of membranes, also known as “breaking
the waters” (75.2 per 10,000), episiotomy, which
is a surgical cut to the perineum to enlarge the
vaginal opening (53.3 per 10,000), and medical
induction of labor (45.9 per 10,000). The rate of
induction of labor was twice the 1990 rate, while
the cesarean section rate increased 41 percent
after a recent low in 1996.
Complications of labor and delivery can include
moderate or heavy meconium, which occurs
when the baby expels its first stool before being
born; breech presentation or malpresentation,
which occurs when the baby is in an abnormal
position that may interfere with labor; tocolysis,
which is the delaying of labor to avoid preterm
birth; and precipitous labor, which is labor that
takes less than 3 hours from beginning to end.
Among childbearing women through age 54,
moderate/heavy meconium is most common,
occurring at a rate of 48.3 per 1,000 live births,
followed by breech/malpresentation (41.6 per
1,000), tocolysis (19.8 per 1,000), and precipitous
labor (19.2 per 1,000). There is some racial and
ethnic disparity in the occurrence of these complications.
Moderate/heavy meconium is most
common among births to non-Hispanic Black
women and breech/malpresentation occurs most
frequently in births to non-Hispanic White
women. Both tocolysis and precipitous labor
occur less frequently among births to Hispanic
women than in births to non-Hispanic White
women and non-Hispanic Black women.