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The Lengthening of Childbirth

MSNBC recently published information on interesting new research that caught the eye of our Chicago birth injury attorneys. The article reiterates the main point of a new study published in the next issues of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study found that women now spend a longer time in labor than they did fifty years ago. This is in many ways a very counter-intuitive finding. With advances in medicine, one would expect the process to have been streamlined to make the birthing process more efficient. However, that doesn’t appear to be true.

The study’s authors specifically found that modern-day deliveries last about two hours longer than those that took place in the 1950s and 1960s. The lengthier portion of the birth was seen in the “first stage” of labor. The first stage is the part of the process when the cervix opens to the point where it is wide enough for the child’s head to pass through. This should be distinguished from the second stage where the child is actually delivered. Many preventable Illinois birth injuries involving unnecessary force being applied or delayed emergency maneuvers occur in this second stage of birth.

The study compared various characteristics about birth using data from women who gave birth in the mid 200s and those who gave birth between forty five to fifty years earlier. The longer first stage of labor was constant even when taking into account different weights, ages, and ethnicities. Interestingly, contemporary women were found to weigh more on average and be older on average. However, those factors are not responsible for the longer births.

Instead, the researchers speculate that changes in delivery practices may be to blame. For example, epidurals have been found to extend the length of time in the first stage of labor by 40 to 90 minutes. Increased epidural use may therefore play a role. However, the research does not support the drug use as the main cause of the time differences. Researchers explain that more information is needed to pinpoint what is going on with contemporary birth which would lead to the longer first stage.

Each Illinois birth injury lawyer at our firm appreciates that this research is not just a historical one. The findings may have very real implications on today’s deliveries. For example, the definition of “normal” lengths of time for childbirth is based on statistics from the 1950s. This research suggests that those stats may no longer reflect reality. Therefore, doctors who use drugs to induce labor or speed up the process based on the out-dated time-frame may need to readjust their expectations and delay administration of the drugs.

This may have an effect on C-section rates. We have often explained how C-section rates of skyrocketed. This may be in part because of doctor’s early intervention based on the outdated expectations about the length of time of the labor. Waiting longer may mean that more women can give birth naturally without the need for surgical intervention and the increased risks that go along with that surgery.

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