How Long Does Labor Last: Average Labor Time

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The stage of labor Duration (Approx.) What is happening?
Day 1 12-19 hours Contractions occur causing tension and dilation of the cervix from about 4 to 10 cm (complete dilation); occurs in three stages
2nd 20 minutes-2 hours Push the baby through the birth canal and deliver; Intervention is usually recommended when the time in this phase exceeds 3 to 4 hours
3rd 5-30 minutes Placenta is transferred (happens after the baby is born)

If this is not your first birth, you will most likely find that the lower end points of these timeframes apply in your case (although that is not the case).

For the purposes of statistical analysis, the lengths of the stages of labor may be reported separately or together. This may help explain why you may see slight differences in the length of labor when reading this topic.

Analysis of the stages of Phase 1

The stages of stage 1 are usually defined as follows:

  • Early stage of labor (hours or for first-time moms, it can be a few days): During this time, your cervix begins to dilate (open 4 to 6 centimeters) and stretch (thin and soft). Contractions start but are erratic and you may lose the mucus plug. Gently happens to move the baby into the birth position.
  • Active stage of labor (about 4 to 8 hours): This is when your cervix fully dilates to 10 cm (at a rate of about 1 cm per hour) and contractions become stronger, more predictable, and more frequent. This period may be longer or shorter for some women; in fact, it can be especially short for those who have had a vaginal birth before.
  • Transition (approximately 15 to 60 minutes): This is actually considered part of active labor and is ended by increasingly strong contractions. You will feel pain in your lower back / rectum and want to push—right away-but would be advised to wait until you are fully dilated.
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Some doctors and researchers consider early labor and active phase 1 to be one and the same. And since early labor doesn’t happen in the hospital in most cases, it can be difficult to measure its duration precisely.

This may be why it doesn’t appear in many data analyzing the duration of labor — and why many studies differ on how it is recorded. For this reason, many hospitals only record data on active labor.

Longer workers

Women who were in the early stages of labor for more than 17 hours were more likely to be considered for intervention to deliver everything. Popular options include:

The use of forceps and episiotomy may also be considered in some cases.

Some doctors are more cautious than others when making these decisions. Doctors will consider many factors — including the recommended length of labor and whether the mother and baby are stable — when deciding how long to continue labor.

Factors affecting working time

The length and experience of each labor is different for every woman and pregnancy. While the length of one’s labor cannot be guaranteed, there are many factors that can affect it. Some include:

  • Even if it’s not your first vaginal birth: Subsequent births are, on average, faster. The shorter length of labor in women who have given birth is thought to be because the body remains looser after the previous birth. Alternatively, the body may simply be more attuned to the process it did before.
  • Your pelvis (shape and size): A smaller, narrower pelvis can contribute to longer labor.
  • Mother’s age: Older mothers are known to go into labor longer.
  • Higher maternal body mass index: Studies show that mothers who are overweight have a longer labor time.
  • Baby’s position: If the baby has descended and is in the optimal position (head down and facing your back), labor will go faster.
  • Strength and contraction time: When contractions are more intense, regular, and closer together, labor is likely to progress more quickly.
  • Use of labor induction drugs: Such intervention is usually performed when labor has not progressed sufficiently. Its purpose is to strengthen contractions and speed up labor, which can lead to delivery within hours for some women. However, if you have a completely closed cervix at the time of onset, you may still not be able to give birth for many days.
  • Epidural use: Some research shows that an epidural can prolong your labor (from 30 minutes to 2 hours). However, the American Association of Anesthesiologists disputes this, asserting that when labor is prolonged, it is usually due to factors such as the position of the baby – not the epidural. In fact, they cite evidence that an epidural can reduce the length of the first stage of labor by allowing the mother to relax.

Labor Times: Then and Now

What labor mothers experience has changed over time with the advent of pain-relieving interventions, new hospital services (such as water birthing baths), etc.

The timing of labor has also changed, mainly because of when women choose to give birth and how doctors are now approaching births at a later stage.

Mother’s age

A study conducted by the NIH compared data on nearly 138,000 spontaneous singleton births from two time periods: 2002-2008 and 1959-1966. The review found that the median time spent among first-time mothers in recent years was longer than in previous years, when most labor patterns began to be recorded (6.5 hours vs. with less than 4 hours).

The researchers suggest that this is due to a number of factors, the first being the increased age of the mother. In terms of timing of childbirth, mothers in the early 2000s were on average about four years older than women born in the 1960s. The researchers cite that older mothers tend to give birth longer than younger mothers, as noted above.

Delivery practice

In deliveries since the 1960s, many doctors have used an incision (perineal incision) to widen the vaginal opening during delivery or a surgical instrument to remove the baby from the birth canal. These interventions may speed delivery but are now less common due to potential side effects.

Today, doctors can intervene when labor is not progressing by injecting Pitocin or performing a cesarean section. In fact, the cesarean section rate in the early 2000s was four times higher than it was 50 years earlier.

These are very different birth procedures that can affect labor and delivery data.

What’s more, despite the lingering reluctance of some doctors, others may be allowing women to go into labor longer than they used to. A comprehensive 2018 review of labor studies in low-risk women noted that many women were able to safely resume labor at intervals generally considered safe (or as long as possible). more) as long as labor goes on and both mother and baby are healthy. .

A very good word

Knowing how long your labor will last will probably help satisfy some curiosity about the unknown. Unfortunately, like most things with parenting, labor time is not scripted.

Average working time can give you a sense of what you maybe experience, but your mind can better focus on staying flexible when it comes to your expectations and accepting the fact that each labor is unique.

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