There are times when I look back at my pregnancy years and think about the fact that I was never able to experience natural childbirth. Narrow hips and larger than average infants forced me to have three C-sections. I remember vividly asking my obstetrician if I could possibly try to give birth to my twins (last pregnancy) naturally. He giggled and said, “Summer, you’ve had two C-sections and you’re pregnant with more than 13-pounds of twins. You are not going to have these babies vaginally.”

I was devastated, but I understood the health risks of attempting childbirth with a thinning uterus. Now, I’m kind of thrilled I didn’t try childbirth. According to a report from the National Institutes of Health, labor takes longer today than it did 50 years ago, so I would have been in pain for hours longer than my mother and her mother. 

The National Institutes of Health looked at more than 140,000 delivery reports. Based on the information collected from the reports, the first stage of first labor takes nearly three hours longer. If a woman has given birth before, the first stage of labor is still two hours longer for women today than it was 50 years ago. The first stage of labor is the stage when the cervix dilates – it is not the pushing stage of labor. 

Researchers note that additional research is needed to determine if there are any other contributing factors that may be causing the increase in labor times. Some of the possible contributing factors could include body weight during labor and maternal age. Women weigh more today, on average, than they did 50 years ago and they are waiting longer to have children so first labor may not be experienced until at least four years later (based on age) than 50 years ago. 

How long did your first stage of labor last? 

Source: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 31 March, 2012. 

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