Today’s Moms Labor 2 Hours Longer Than Their Grandmas

Your labor pains probably will last about 2 hours and 36 minutes longer than your grandmother’s when she gave birth to your mom. Statistically, at least.

A new study ran the clock and crunched the math for American and British mommies.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists tracked 150,000 women as they went into labor, and calculated that women giving birth 50 years ago spent 2 1/2 hours less pushing babies into the world.

Modern women who already had one child caught a bit of a break. They spent just 2 hours longer in labor than women 50 years ago.

The doctors offered possible reasons for the time change. Women today ordinarily weigh more than 1960s mothers, which can extend labor. Today’s babies also are heavier and so take more time to deliver. Only 4% of women in the Mad Men-era used epidurals. Now, epidural is commonplace. And it extends labor.

Mom365 talked to Eileen Ehudin Beard, CNP, the senior practice advisor for the American College of Nurse-Midwives. In her 30 years of clinical experience, she has observed that ordinarily, the fewer medical interventions in a delivery, the easier the labor.

“Epidurals can prolong labor,” she said, “and IV fluids can slow down labor.” That’s because an being hooked up to an IV can confine a laboring woman to bed, and being flat on your back is not an optimal position for labor. (She recommends mothers request water to drink during labor rather than get nourishment through an IV bag.)

Beard is intrigued by the study’s observation that mothers 50 years ago tended to weigh much less than mothers today. She says the more fit a mother is, the easier time she tends to have in labor – and heavier moms might mean less fit moms than in the ’60s.

“We often compare being in labor and giving birth to running a marathon,” Beard said. “Women 50 years ago probably walked and exercised more every day. Now, people text their neighbors rather than walk to their house to talk. Often, people sitting in the next room of the same house text each other rather than get up from a chair. Being at the right weight and in good shape makes a lot of life easier, including labor.”


Happily, the Royal College study says today’s babies are born slightly healthier than their predecessors 50 years ago. And the use of forceps to deliver a baby has plummeted.

What are you doing to make your labor easier?