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HomeHealth articlesemergency medicineWhat Are the Delivery Room Emergencies?

Delivery Room Emergency: Causes and Management

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5 min read


Delivery room emergency describes problems occurring during delivery in the operating room. Read below to learn about the same.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richa Agarwal

Published At May 15, 2023
Reviewed AtMay 15, 2023


A delivery room emergency can be a terrifying and overwhelming experience for the expectant mother and the medical team responsible for her care. These emergencies can occur suddenly and without warning, and various factors, are responsible for them. It can be fatal for both mother and baby.

What Are the Steps in Management of Delivery Room Emergency?

The steps to manage a delivery room emergency include the following:

  • Assessing the Situation and Determining the Cause of the Emergency: This includes evaluating the mother's vital signs, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation levels, as well as the baby's heart rate, position, and movements.

  • Acting Quickly and Decisively: Depending on the cause of the emergency, different actions may be necessary. For example, in cases of placental abruption, an emergency cesarean section may be needed, while in cases of cord prolapse, the baby may need to be repositioned and delivered quickly.
  • Communicating Effectively: The medical team should constantly communicate with each other during emergencies. Clear and concise information is present between the nursing staff, obstetricians, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, and any other relevant members of the team.
  • Prioritizing the Well-Being and Safety of the Mother and Baby: The safety and well-being of the mother and baby should be the top priority for the medical team during any emergency.
  • Implementing Emergency Protocols and Regularly Practicing Them: Medical teams should be familiar with them and regularly practice them to ensure they are prepared to respond quickly and efficiently in a delivery room emergency.
  • Providing Post-emergency Care and Support: After the delivery room emergency, the mother and baby will require close monitoring and care to ensure they recover well. In addition, any complications that arose during the emergency should be identified and addressed.
  • Debriefing: After the emergency, it is crucial to have a debriefing session with the team to understand what went well and what can be improved next time.

What Are the Causes of Emergency in Delivery Rooms?

There are many potential causes of delivery room emergencies, some of the most common. These are as follows:

  • Placental Abruption: This is a severe condition in which the placenta separates from the uterus before the baby is born. This can cause severe bleeding and put both the mother and the baby at risk.

  • Cord Prolapse: It occurs when the umbilical cord drops into the birth canal before the baby's head, causing head compression. This can lead to a lack of oxygen for the baby and can be fatal if not addressed quickly.

  • Fetal Distress: This occurs when the baby is not getting enough oxygen, which various factors, such as placental insufficiency, a blocked umbilical cord, or a prolapsed cord, can cause.

  • Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy: High blood pressure or preeclampsia can be a serious condition for the mother and baby. Sudden onset of severe hypertension, headache, visual disturbances, epigastric pain, or severe proteinuria is some signs of preeclampsia.

  • Hemorrhage: Heavy bleeding can occur during or after delivery, putting the mother at risk of serious complications.

  • Premature Labor: When labor starts before 37 weeks of pregnancy, the baby may not fully develop, leading to potential health issues.

  • Abnormal Fetal Position: A baby not in the optimal position for delivery, such as a breech position, can increase the risk of complications during delivery.

  • Maternal Infection: Any maternal infection can complicate the delivery process and lead to serious health issues for both mother and baby.

How to Prevent Emergency Room Deliveries?

Preventing delivery room emergencies requires prenatal care, monitoring, and preparation. Here are some ways that delivery room emergencies can be prevented:

  • Prenatal Care: Regular prenatal care is essential for identifying and managing potential risks during pregnancy. This includes monitoring the mother's and baby's health, identifying potential complications, and taking steps to address them before they become emergencies.

  • Identifying High-Risk Pregnancies: Some women are at a higher risk of experiencing delivery room emergencies. For example, women with pre-existing health conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes, are at a higher risk of complications during pregnancy. Identifying these high-risk pregnancies early on can help medical teams prepare for potential emergencies and take steps to prevent them.

  • Monitoring for Signs of Distress: Regular monitoring of the mother's vital signs and the baby's heart rate, position, and movements can help identify potential emergencies before they occur. This includes not only during delivery but also before prenatal checkups.

  • Proper Management of Hypertension and Preeclampsia: Managing high blood pressure in pregnancy is crucial to prevent maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality.

  • Avoiding Unnecessary Interventions: Some interventions, such as labor induction or elective cesarean section, can increase the risk of complications. These interventions should only be used when they are medically necessary and not simply for convenience.

  • Encourage Women to Give Birth in Facilities With Emergency Obstetric Care: Giving birth in a facility equipped to handle emergency obstetric care can greatly increase the chances of a safe delivery.

How to Identify Delivery Room Emergencies?

Diagnosing a delivery room emergency requires a thorough evaluation of the mother's and baby's health and a detailed examination of the circumstances surrounding the delivery. Here are some common ways that delivery room emergencies are diagnosed:

  • Vital Signs: The mother's vital signs, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation levels, are monitored to determine if there are any signs of distress. Similarly, the baby's heart rate, position, and movements are monitored to identify potential issues.

  • Physical Examination: A physical examination of the mother and baby can help to identify any obvious signs of distress or complications. For example, the medical team may check for blood or meconium (fetal bowel movement) in the amniotic fluid or for signs of cord prolapse.

  • Imaging: In some cases, imaging such as ultrasound may help diagnose a delivery room emergency. Ultrasound can provide detailed information about the baby's position, movements, and overall health.

  • Laboratory Tests: Blood tests can be taken to check for signs of maternal distress or complications, such as bleeding, preeclampsia, or infection.

  • Electronic Fetal Monitoring: Electronic fetal monitoring is a way to listen and interpret the fetal heart rate patterns in relation to the contractions; it can help detect signs of fetal distress, allowing the medical team to intervene quickly to prevent further complications.

What Is the Treatment of Emergency Room Delivery?

Treatment for a delivery room emergency will depend on the specific cause of the emergency and the condition of the mother and baby. However, here are some standard treatment options:

  • Emergency Cesarean Section: In cases where the baby is not getting enough oxygen or if the mother's life is in danger, an emergency cesarean section may be necessary to deliver the baby as quickly as possible.

  • Assisted Delivery: In cases where the baby is in distress but can still be delivered vaginally, assisted delivery methods such as forceps or vacuum extraction may be used to deliver the baby quickly.

  • Umbilical Cord Management: If a prolapsed umbilical cord causes distress, the cord may need to be repositioned or clamped to restore blood flow to the baby.

  • Blood Transfusion: If there's heavy bleeding or hemorrhage, the mother may need a blood transfusion.

  • Hypertensive Disorders Management: When hypertension or preeclampsia is present, the mother's blood pressure should be monitored and treated accordingly to prevent serious complications.

  • Neonatal Resuscitation: If the baby is not breathing or is in distress, the medical team may need to provide neonatal resuscitation to help the baby start breathing and stabilize its condition.

  • Antibiotics: If an infection is suspected or confirmed, antibiotics will be administered to the mother and baby to prevent and/or treat the infection.

  • Post-emergency Care: After the delivery room emergency is resolved, the mother and baby will require close monitoring and care to ensure they recover well. Any complications that arose during the emergency should be identified and addressed.


In the event of a delivery room emergency, the healthcare providers present, typically obstetricians and nurses, will work quickly to assess the situation and take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the mother and baby. This may include intervening with instruments such as forceps or vacuum extractors to assist with delivery, performing a cesarean section, or other life-saving measures. It is important to note that delivery room emergencies are rare in most cases, and most pregnancies and deliveries go smoothly. However, having a plan in place and trained healthcare providers who can respond quickly in the event of an emergency can significantly improve the outcome for the mother and baby.

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Dr. Richa Agarwal
Dr. Richa Agarwal

Obstetrics and Gynecology


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