FRIDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- American women today are
spending about two hours more in labor during childbirth than women
did 50 years ago, a new report says.
The report's authors said several factors helped to explain the
"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 Dr. Katherine Laughon, an epidemiologist with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said during a Friday afternoon news conference.
For the study, Laughon's team collected data on nearly 40,000
women who gave birth between 1959 and 1966, and compared those
findings with nearly 100,000 women who delivered between 2002 and
The researchers found women in the 21st century were in labor
2.6 hours longer for first births and two hours longer for
subsequent births than women from the 1960s.
Mothers in the 2000s also were older, heavier and used
painkillers more during labor, and were more likely to have a
Cesarean delivery than women in the 1960s.
Other differences that might explain the increase reflect
changes in later-stage delivery practices. For instance, in the
1960s the use of episiotomy (a surgical incision to enlarge the
vaginal opening during delivery) and forceps (surgical instruments
used to extract a baby) were more common, the researchers
The use of epidural injections to ease the pain of delivery is
more common now than 50 years ago. Epidurals were used in more than
half of recent deliveries, compared with 4 percent of deliveries in
the 1960s, the study authors said, adding that epidural anesthesia
is known to increase delivery time.
The study also found that Cesarean deliveries are four times
more common today than 50 years ago -- 12 percent vs. 3
"Women are in labor longer [today] because they are admitted [to the hospital] earlier," said Dr. Michael Cabbad, chairman of obstetrics/gynecology and chief of maternal/fetal medicine at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. "There is a tendency for women to come to the hospital in an earlier phase of labor because of fear of arriving too late."
When a women is admitted today, she is started on intravenous
fluids and put in a bed, which slows down the labor process, Cabbad
The new report appears in the March 10 online edition of the
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
For more on childbirth, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.