Study: Birthing Mothers Spending More Time In Labor

Researchers with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) have discovered that women spend more time in labor today than they did five decades ago, various media outlets reported on Friday.

According to Amy Norton of Reuters, the NIH study found that American females spend approximately two to three hours longer, on average, in labor compared to 1960. Most of that extra time is spent in the first stage of labor, or the time during which the cervix opens until it is wide enough to allow the mother to begin pushing.

The results, which will be published in a future edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOG), were consistent, regardless of weight, age or ethnicity, though there was a tendency for modern mothers to be older and heavier than those who have birth 50 years ago, said MyHealthNewsDaily Staff Writer Rachael Rettner.

“Older maternal age and increased BMI (body-mass index, a ratio of weight to height) accounted for a part of the increase. We believe that some aspects of delivery-room practice are also responsible for this increase,” lead author and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Epidemiologist Dr. Katherine Laughon, told reporters, including HealthDay’s Steven Reinberg, during a conference call on Friday afternoon.

According to both Reinberg and Rettner, Laughon and her colleagues analyzed the birth data of nearly 40,000 women who had children between 1959 and 1966, as well as more than 98,000 women who delivered from 2002 through 2008. They discovered that 21st century women spent 2.6 hours longer in labor during their first birth and 2.0 hours longer during each subsequent birth, and that they were more likely to take epidurals and four times more likely to have a Cesarean delivery than their predecessors from the 1950s and 1960s.

“Women are in labor longer [today] because they are admitted [to the hospital] earlier,” Dr. Michael Cabbad, the chairman of obstetrics/gynecology as well as the chief of maternal/fetal medicine at The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBH) in New York, told HealthDay on Friday. “There is a tendency for women to come to the hospital in an earlier phase of labor because of fear of arriving too late.”

The researchers report that more research is required to pinpoint all the factors responsible for this phenomenon. As Laughon told David, “We weren’t able to fully address the potential reasons with this study.”

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