What is Precipitous Birth?



1. dangerously high or steep

2. done suddenly and without careful consideration


A precipitous birth is defined as a labor that lasts less than three hours from beginning of regular contractions to birth of child. 

Some of you might be hoping for something along those lines, yourselves. Heck, as a two-time, 24+ hour laborer myself, I know the temptation of wishing for a quick birth. I mean, what's not to love about getting it over and done with as fast as possible, right?

Yeah. About that...

Here's the thing- your body still has to do all of the work it would have done in 30 hours, except it's doing it in 3 or less.

And for many laboring persons, it's a white-knuckle, out of body experience that can negatively impact the way they feel about their birth experience.

I went from laying down with my oldest for bedtime, to being hit by a train, and then a baby was in my arms.
Photo Credit:  Valerie Cannon Photography   Image Description: Laboring woman on hands and knees wearing a sports bra and amber necklace, leaning against a birthing ball during a contraction.

Photo Credit: Valerie Cannon Photography

Image Description: Laboring woman on hands and knees wearing a sports bra and amber necklace, leaning against a birthing ball during a contraction.

Meet Megan- doula here with bFW, mom of 4 and a precipitous birther.

"My husband was already asleep in bed and I crawled out to the living room where my phone was charging and that’s as far as I could make it.

I kept getting hit. Contraction. Contraction. Contraction.

Once I made it to my phone I sent a text to my best friend “call rusty”


Next text... I can’t


Next text... labor

Luckily she just did what I said and didn’t question me because I wouldn’t have been able to explain.

I eventually made it to the bedroom via hands and knees and the rest was a blur. Midwife. Barely a birth tub. Baby in my arms. It was a complete out of body experience."


Preparing for a Fast Labor

One of the best things you can do is prepare! This allows you to relax somewhat, knowing you've done everything you can to set yourself up for success.

- Discuss where you'll birth. Make sure your team knows your birthing history. Many women opt for a home birth when facing a precipitous labor but that's not your only option. The most important thing is that no matter WHERE you choose to birth, you feel completely comfortable.

- Have an oh-sh!t plan. If you're planning to birth at home, make sure your birth team knows exactly where everything is (towels, blankets, chux pads, etc.) and, if you're planning a water birth, that the birth pool is blown up and waiting to be filled with fresh water (if there's time).

- Pack a few supplies in your car. If you're planning to travel to your place of birth, make sure you have a couple of towels and a nice, soft blanket for you and baby. Also be sure you've had a convo with your provider about what to do if an unplanned home or car birth seems imminent. Ask things like who you should call (them or 911)? Do they want you to go to the closest hospital or on to them? Talk it out ahead of time with your entire team (partner, doula, etc.)

- Talk it out. Make sure your team knows your birthing history, craft your plan and don't forget to follow up! When birth leaves us feeling overwhelmed, talking through your experience can be an invaluable part of closure and healing, even. Don't bottle those feelings up- happy, sad, dazed, shocked, overwhelmed, scared.... all totally normal reactions. Talk to your spouse, your doula, your mom, your friend, your OB, your midwife, write about it, journal it, paint it... do what you need to do work your way through and know that you aren't alone.

Remember, fast or slow, birth is a life-changing event no matter what. It takes time, patience, love and SUPPORT regardless.


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