PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Who takes longer to give birth — women today or 50 years ago?

A National Institutes of Health Study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology says women today take 2.6 hours longer in labor with their first child and two hours longer for subsequent children.

This is based on 140,000 deliveries. Births in the late 1950s and 60s were compared to births from 2002 to 2008.

But a local obstetrician says it’s comparing apples and oranges because today’s techniques of measuring the onset of labor with fetal monitoring are more precise.

“We can see exactly when you’re contracting, when you were in labor, when you started labor, when you finished labor, so the data is going to be a little skewed,” says Dr. Joseph Meyn, and obstetrician at Allegheny General Hospital.

Also, delivery with forceps was far more common half a century ago.

“If you’re constantly putting on forceps and grabbing kids and delivering them, your labor is going to be shorter,” he explains.

The study points out that moms now are heavier, older and are more likely to use epidural anesthesia. But it’s unlikely anything will change.

“If you go to your patients and say, ‘Look, if you want to push an extra hour and be completely comfortable in epidural, or do you want to push an hour less and be uncomfortable,’ the vast majority of patients are going to say, ‘Give me the epidural.’ And I think that’s reasonable,” says Dr. Meyn.

For a first child, the average length of labor is 12 to 18 hours. For additional children, the average length is seven hours.

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National Institutes of Health

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