Babies Not In A Hurry

04.03.12 New federal stats show that women today have longer births and heavier babies.


Today's labors are definitely not like our grandmothers' experiences, according to an NPR news article. A new study from the National Institutes of Health says women today take longer to give birth compared with women a half century ago. "The typical first-time mother takes 6 1/2 hours to give birth these days. Her counterpart 50 years ago labored for barely four hours," the NPR article says.

Federal researchers, whose findings were published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, compared information from 140,000 deliveries from births in the early 1960s and in the early 2000s. They uncovered interesting differences:

  • The first stage of labor had increased by 2.6 hours for today's first-time mothers; for those who had given birth previously, this stage was now two hours longer.
  • Infants born in the most recent group were born on average five days earlier and were heavier than those born in the 1960s.

"The reasons for today's much longer labors aren't entirely clear," according to the NPR report. But researchers cited maternal age, the more frequent use of epidurals, bigger babies and a higher rate of Cesarean sections as all possible causes for the longer birth times.

"But study authors say the most important causes for longer labor are what obstetricians do, not how their patients have changed," the NPR article says.

Going into labor spontaneously protects you and your newborn. As our Ask the Labor Nurse blogger emphasizes: Moms-to-be should let nature run its course when it comes to giving birth.

And there is one way to prep your body for a shorter labor: Stay upright! Previous research has confirmed that women should move around during early labor. Lying in bed offers no advantages. Plus, getting off your back can also help reduce your labor pain.

—Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.