The Question About Childbirth We've Waited 200 Years To Ask

Not too many people would talk about childbirth and say, “Longer labor? More pushing? Yes, please!” But it turns out letting women push longer might be a key to reducing the number of c-sections.

According to the Huffington Post, the general guideline for labor is to allow patients in their first pregnancy push for three hours if they’ve had an epidural and two hours if they haven’t. If the baby still hasn’t emerged after that, doctors assume the patient is in prolonged labor and start intervening, either with suction or a c-section.

Turns out, that guideline may be old news — REALLY old news, actually. It was established back in 1800, and there hasn’t been significant research to recheck the data since then. A few studies have looked at past labor records and seen that patients who deliver in under two hours of pushing have fewer infections, and another one showed that two hours is about the average for the second stage of labor.

Now a new study is bringing closer scrutiny to that time-limit for delivery. The report published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology looks at 78 patients delivering their first babies. All had an epidural and were randomly selected to either be given the usual 3 hours to push or an extra hour. Of those given just 3 hours to push, 43% went on to have c-sections. Of those given an extra hour, the c-section rate was just 19.5%.

That’s one hell of a drop.

Because this study is so new and so small, it’s unlikely to change current best practices. But it’s good information to have if you’re getting ready to deliver a baby. Talk to your provider about different labor interventions and how long you want to push before any of those are introduced!

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