Does Longer Labor Have Its Perks?

In some cases, pushing a little longer can be a positive thing.
ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
Mar 2016
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We know you don’t particularly want to be in labor for a long time. But a new study says that perseverance might just be the ticket to avoiding a c-section.

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University found that when women are given more time to deliver their babies than current guidelines recommend, c-section rates drop by 55 percent. And we’re not talking a lot more time—researchers let fully-dilated women labor for four hours after receiving an epidural (instead of three) before making a call.

“This was a small study [78 first-time moms participated], so a formal change in guidelines should be based on a larger sample of women,” says lead author Alexis C. Gimovsky, MD, explaining that most physicians follow a two-hour rule for women who opt out of an epidural, and three hours for those who have one. “But this study shows what we have observed in practice–there is benefit to allowing women to labor longer.”

About 32 percent of deliveries in the US result in c-sections, and 10 to 15 percent of those are because of adherence to the two-hour rule. Currently, there don’t seem to be any downsides to playing a waiting game: There were no health consequences for mothers or babies because of extended labor.

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