Researchers in Sweden have come out with a new test which can help take the decision regarding the requirement for a caesarean section.
They have established that when high levels of lactic acid are measured in the amniotic fluid, it is unlikely the mother will deliver vaginally.
Measuring this acid could help decide whether to end a difficult labour and opt for a Caesarean earlier.
The test, developed by the Swedish company Obstecare, is being rolled out in a number of European hospitals.
It has been developed on the back of research led by Liverpool University and Liverpool Women's Hospital.
Their studies showed that the uterus produces lactic acid as other muscles do when they work hard, but that when it reaches a certain level the substance starts to inhibit contractions.he hormone oxytocin is usually administered in cases of slow labours to stimulate the uterus into contracting, but not all labouring women respond to it.
Johan Ubby of Obstecare says the test should help doctors establish which women may go on to deliver vaginally, as low levels of lactic acid suggest the uterus could still produce the contractions needed to push out the baby.
"But a high level of lactic acid in the amniotic fluid indicates that the uterus is exhausted. To stimulate this kind of labour with an oxytocin infusion would be like asking a marathon runner to run an extra 10,000 metres after he or she has passed the finish line," the BBC quoted Ubby as saying.
He says the system of testing should reduce the number of Caesareans for women who may not need them and accelerate them for those that do to "avoid the risk of complications from a long birth and limit unnecessary suffering".