Precipitous labor

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 2 Nov 2021

Precipitous labor, also known as precipitous birth, is labor that happens too quickly, and is formally defined as fetal expulsion three hours or less after the start of regular uterine contractions. Contradictory and somewhat limited data demonstrates a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications 1,6.


American data shows that precipitous labor accounts for up to 3% of all births, although a large Japanese study of over 11,000 singleton births from 2015, found ~14% were precipitous in nature 1,2. Pregnant mothers are more likely to experience precipitous labor if they are multiparous 1.

  • unplanned out of hospital births 2
  • short interpregnancy interval 4
Risk factors
  • multiparity > nulliparity
  • multivariate analysis in a 2015 study looked at nullips and multips mothers as separate groups, identifying the following independent risk factors 1

NB: hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are chronic hypertension, preeclampsia-eclampsia and gestational hypertension 5

See also

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