The thought of spending many hours in acute pain during the labor that precedes childbirth can cause apprehension in a lot of moms-to-be and with good reason – a recent analysis of childbirth data has shown that women today take longer to deliver babies than they did 50 years ago.
Why labor is of longer duration today
Data from 40,000 deliveries between 1959 and 1966 and another 100,000 deliveries between 2002 and 2008 was analyzed by the National Institutes of health and it was found that differences in delivery room practices were responsible for this protraction of labor times between then and now.
Administration of an epidural (anesthesia for easing labor pain) increased from 4% to 50% during the past 50 years. This is well known that epidurals increase duration of labor.
Other reasons for more time taken for delivery is the fact that rates of episiotomies (incision to enlarge the vaginal opening) and use of forceps have also come down.
There are other reasons why labor and delivery is taking longer today than it did 50 years ago.
Proportions of pregnant women with high BMI is much higher today – many more overweight and obese women are giving birth today than 50 years ago. Obesity is a known factor for increasing risk of birth complications.
There is also the fact that the average age of mothers today is higher, and increased maternal age is another factor that could be responsible for longer labor.
Tips for easing labor and labor pains
Know what to expect and be prepared for it. Attend childbirth classes so that you know what is going to happen and how you to deal with it.
Also take the opportunity to speak to other moms, especially second or third time moms who’ve been there, done that, in a manner of speaking. This way there is no fear of the unknown.
Don’t get scared by the horror stories that you hear and read – like agonizing and seemingly unending labor pains and other complications.
Practice breathing techniques to help with the pain. Visualizations and other techniques can also help you deal better with the pain. Listen to music, keep moving around if possible and try different positions for the birthing process.
Remember that your body was designed for natural delivery, but that you also do have recourse if the pain gets truly unbearable – pain medication is still an option that is available to you.