Think modern mothers have it harder than their older family members did? You’re probably right!
New research has found that the average labour lasts much longer for mothers now than it did 50 years ago. A study of almost 150,000 women found the average labour can last more than two and a half hours longer today than 50 years ago.
The reasons? Contributing factors being discussed as part of the research are: modern women being heavier than their 1960s counterparts, 21st century babies having heavier birth weights, and changes to the way hospitals tend to deliver babies. Epidurals, for example, may ease the pain of labour, but they also tend to make it last much longer. In the 1960s however, only four per cent of women used epidurals when delivering their babies.
Although the study looked at American women but British doctors say there is no reason to think the pattern is not similar here.
The study also included labours which resulted in a caesarean section. Caesarean sections now account for nearly a quarter of all British births, twice as many as 30 years ago.
The study also revealed that the first stage of labour – in which contractions have started but pushing has not – has got longer by an average of 2 hours 36 minutes in first-time mothers. The increase was smaller but still significant in those that had already had at least one child: an average increase of two hours.
On the bright side, Patrick O’Brien, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the study showed a large fall in forceps deliveries – one of women’s biggest fears. He also added that the increase in average labour times does not seem to be harmful, with the data showing, if anything, that today’s babies are slightly healthier when they are born.
How long did your labour last? And how does that compare to your mother and grandmother’s births? Why not tell us in our chat forum!
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