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Women Have Longer Labors Now

Longer Labors Found in New Study Linked Mainly to Changes in Delivery Practices, Researchers Say

Longer Labors: Perspective

The findings about longer labors are not at all surprising, says Michael Cabbad, MD, chairman and chief of maternal and fetal medicine at the Brooklyn Hospital Medical Center. He reviewed the findings for WebMD but was not involved in the study.

He agrees that delivery practices help explain the findings. "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." That also tends to slow down the labor process, he says.

While the study did not look at anxiety levels of the women, Cabbad speculates that could play a role. "Talk to a woman today who is pregnant and about to have a baby," he says. "She gets on the Internet [to research pregnancy and childbirth]."

"This amount of communication and understanding about the birth process is not where it was 50 years ago," Cabbad says. "People were more relaxed about labor and the process of childbirth 50 years ago."

On the other hand, the technology has produced safer labors, he says.

His best advice? "Find an [ob-gyn] you feel comfortable with, that you can communicate with, and that you feel safe with. That relaxes the psyche, so maybe labor will be a little better."

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