Over a third of women of childbearing age in the United States are obese, and during pregnancy they are at increased risk for delayed labor onset and slow labor progress that often results in unplanned cesarean delivery. The biology behind this dysfunctional parturition is not well understood. Studies of obesity-induced changes in parturition physiology may facilitate approaches to optimize labor in obese women. In this review, we summarize known and proposed biologic effects of obesity on labor preparation, contraction/synchronization, and endurance, drawing on both clinical observation and experimental data. We present evidence from human and animal studies of interactions between obesity and parturition signaling in all elements of the birth process, including: delayed cervical ripening, prostaglandin insensitivity, amniotic membrane strengthening, decreased myometrial oxytocin receptor expression, decreased myocyte action potential initiation and contractility, decreased myocyte gap junction formation, and impaired myocyte neutralization of reactive oxygen species. We found convincing clinical data on the effect of obesity on labor initiation and successful delivery, but few studies on the underlying pathobiology. We suggest research opportunities and therapeutic interventions based on plausible biologic mechanisms.