Childbirth takes longer now than it did 50 years ago

With all the medical advances in the past few decades, it may seem shocking that women are actually in labor longer now than they were 50 years ago.

A new study compared the time it took to have a child in the 1960s to the time it takes in this decade. After combing through thousands of medical records, Katherine Laughon, MD, a researcher at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found first-time mothers are in labor at least 2.6 hours longer.

Why does childbirth take longer now?

There are several theories about why childbirth is longer.

“When patients arrive in active labor, they are placed on monitoring devices that people didn’t have in the ‘60s. They tend to be placed in a labor bed. They get IV fluid hydration, which tends to slow labor. Women are in bed with limited mobility, not walking which also tends to slow down the labor process,” Michael Cabbad, MD, chairman and chief of maternal and fetal medicine at the Brooklyn Hospital Medical Center said.

Plus, these days’ doctors believe pregnant women are more anxious about having a baby.

“Talk to a woman today who is pregnant and about to have a baby,” Cabbad told WebMd. “She gets on the Internet to research pregnancy and childbirth.”

He addes, “This amount of communication and understanding about the birth process is not where it was 50 years ago. People were more relaxed about labor and the process back then.”

How long are women in labor?

Women giving birth in the ‘60s had a median labor time of just under four hours (half took more time, half less). Those in the recent group took 6.5 hours, Laughon says.

For quicker labors, Cabbad suggests finding an OBGYN that you’re comfortable with to keep the stress level down and also stay mobile.

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