Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Women spend longer in labor now than 50 years ago

Date:
March 30, 2012
Source:
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Summary:
Women take longer to give birth today than did women 50 years ago, according to an analysis of nearly 140,000 deliveries. The researchers could not identify all of the factors that accounted for the increase, but concluded that the change is likely due to changes in delivery room practice.

Women take longer to give birth today than did women 50 years ago, according to an analysis of nearly 140,000 deliveries conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. The researchers could not identify all of the factors that accounted for the increase, but concluded that the change is likely due to changes in delivery room practice.

Related Articles


The study authors called for further research to determine whether modern delivery practices are contributing to the increase in labor duration.

The researchers compared data on deliveries in the early 1960s to data gathered in the early 2000s. They found that the first stage of labor had increased by 2.6 hours for first-time mothers. For women who had previously given birth, this early stage of labor took two hours longer in recent years than for women in the 1960s. The first stage of labor is the stage during which the cervix dilates, before active pushing begins.

Infants born in the contemporary group also were born five days earlier, on average, than were those born in the 1960s, and tended to weigh more. The women in the contemporary group tended to weigh more than did those who delivered in the 1960s. For the contemporary group, the average body mass index before pregnancy was 24.9, compared with 23 for the earlier generation. Body mass index is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. At the time they gave birth, the mothers in the contemporary group were about four years older, on average, than those in the group who gave birth in the 1960s.

"Older mothers tend to take longer to give birth than do younger mothers," said the study's lead author, S. Katherine Laughon, M.D., of the Epidemiology Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). "But when we take maternal age into account, it doesn't completely explain the difference in labor times."

Among the change in delivery practice the researchers found was an increase in the use of epidural anesthesia, the injection of pain killers into the spinal fluid, to decrease the pain of labor. For the contemporary group, epidural injections were used in more than half of recent deliveries, compared with 4 percent of deliveries in the 1960s. The study authors noted that epidural anesthesia is known to increase delivery time, but said it doesn't account for all of the increase.

Doctors in the early 2000s also administered the hormone oxytocin more frequently (in 31 percent of deliveries, compared with 12 percent in the 1960s), the researchers found. Oxytocin is given to speed up labor, often when contractions seem to have slowed. Its use should be expected to shorten labor times, Dr. Laughon explained.

"Without it, labor might even be longer in current obstetrics than what we found," she said.

Their analysis was published online in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The study compared data from nearly 40,000 deliveries between 1959 and 1966 with records of almost 100,000 deliveries that took place in 2002 through 2008. Data from the recent deliveries were collected through the NICHD-supported Consortium on Safe Labor.

Dr. Laughon conducted the study with D. Ware Branch, M.D., of Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City; Jun Zhang, Ph.D., M.D., with the NICHD at the time of the study and now with the Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, China; and Julie Beaver, M.S., formerly with the NICHD.

Other differences between the two groups reflect changes in later stage delivery practices. For example, in 1960s-era deliveries the use of episiotomy (surgical incision to enlarge the vaginal opening during delivery), and the use of forceps, surgical instruments used to extract the baby from the birth canal, was notably more common.

In current practice, doctors may intervene when labor fails to progress. This could happen if the dilation of the cervix slows or the active phase of labor stops for several hours, Dr. Laughon explained. In these cases, intervention can include administering oxytocin or performing a cesarean delivery.

In fact, the study found that the rate of cesarean delivery was four times higher today than it was 50 years ago (12 percent vs. 3 percent).

The authors note that while their study does not identify all the factors contributing to longer delivery times, the findings do indicate that current delivery practices may need to be re-evaluated.

The women in the contemporary cohort had an average pre-pregnancy BMI of 24.9. A BMI of 25 is considered overweight. Overweight and obesity raise the risk of pregnancy complications for mother and baby (PDF -- 1.3 MB). Women who are overweight or obese and who would like to become pregnant should speak with their health care provider about losing weight before becoming pregnant.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. Katherine Laughon, Jun Zhang, Jagteshwar Grewal, Rajeshwari Sundaram, Julie Beaver, Uma M. Reddy. Induction of Labor in a Contemporary Obstetric Cohort. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.ajog.2012.03.014

Cite This Page:

NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "Women spend longer in labor now than 50 years ago." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330164854.htm>.
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2012, March 30). Women spend longer in labor now than 50 years ago. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330164854.htm
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "Women spend longer in labor now than 50 years ago." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330164854.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins