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Today's women 'in labour longer'

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New research has found women today spend much longer in labour than their counterparts 50 years ago.

The survey looked at the birth experiences of 150,000 women based at an American health clinic between 2002 and 2008.

Scientists compared timings of labour and methods of delivery to a sample of women from 1959 to 1966.

The results showed first-time mothers today spend an average of two and a half hours longer in labour than their mothers' generation.

Possible reasons for this may be that modern women are on average four years older when they first go into labour, compared to their 1960s counterparts. They also weigh more, both before and after birth. Modern babies are also heavier.

Other contributing factors include the way in which hospitals now deliver babies.

Just four percent of women underwent epidurals 50 years ago, compared to more than half of women in labour today. The method eases pain but prolongs labour by around 40 to 90 minutes.

"Older maternal age and increased BMI accounted for a part of the increase," researcher Katherine Laughon said at a news conference announcing the results. "We believe that some aspects of delivery-room practice are also responsible for this increase."

What do you think? Do women of today have it harder - whether with longer labours or beyond? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments section below.