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Pregnant Women Spend Longer in Labor Today Than in Past
For allِ our advances inِ medicine, women spend longer inِ labor nowِ than theyِ didِ 50 years ago, a newِ study says.
Women inِ the study whoِ delivered babies inِ the mid-2000s took, onِ average, aboutِ 2 hours longer toِ getِ through theِ firstِ stage ofِ labor compared withِ women whoِ gave birth inِ the 1950s andِ 1960s.
The findings held evenِ afterِ the researchers tookِ intoِ account differences betweenِ the women inِ the twoِ groups, including theirِ weight, age andِ ethnicity.
Katherine Laughon, ofِ the National Institutes ofِ Health, andِ colleagues analyzed historic records fromِ 39,491 women whoِ gave birth betweenِ 1959 andِ 1966, andِ contemporary records ofِ 98,359 women whoِ gave birth betweenِ 2002 andِ 2008.
The study included onlyِ women whoِ entered labor spontaneously (not thoseِ who wereِ induced), andِ were pregnant withِ oneِ child.
Fifty-five percent ofِ women inِ the contemporary group received anِ epidural, whileِ justِ 4 percent inِ the historic group did.
Why is labor longer?
The researchers don’tِ know exactlyِ why labors areِ longer today.
Epidurals haveِ beenِ found toِ prolong labor byِ aboutِ 40 toِ 90 minutes, butِ they areِ favored overِ otherِ methods ofِ pain relief, theِ researchers say.
More research isِ needed toِ find outِ what otherِ factors increase labor times, theِ researchers say.
Women may simply need more time to deliver than they used to, Laughon said.
The finding isِ important becauseِ the definition ofِ normal labor time isِ based onِ data fromِ the 1950s,Laughon said.
This mayِ mean doctors shouldِ nowِ wait longer beforeِ administering drugs toِ speed upِ theِ labor (including oxytocin) orِ intervening withِ a C-section, Laughon said.
The extra time itِ took women inِ the contemporary group toِ give birth wouldِ beِ expected toِ increase theِ cost ofِ eachِ birth by$110, theِ researchers said..