For women in Phoenix, Arizona, who are dealing with pregnancy, the last few weeks are often filled with anticipation, excitement and worry. For some, the baby can't be born fast enough, and no one wants to go through a prolonged or delayed delivery process. A recent study published in "Obstetrics and Gynecology," however, suggests that a lengthy labor isn't necessarily grounds for medical intervention.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists currently defines more than three hours as an abnormally long time for the second stage of labor. After this time passes, doctors may be more likely to intervene via cesarean or the use of medications or tools like forceps or vacuums. The recent study suggests a longer normal average for the second stage of labor, especially when related to epidural use.
For women who receive an epidural during their first birth, researchers state the average second stage length could be up to 5.6 hours. Those that don't receive the epidural could see an average of up to 3.3 hours. Women who have previously given birth have shorter second stages; those with epidurals average up to 4.25 hours and those without average 1.35 hours, which is above previous guidelines.
Experts and physicians have stated that the research is important and the OCOG should consider updating guidelines accordingly. In the presence of stable fetal monitoring, one doctor said he would feel comfortable going 5.5 hours before intervening.
Since intervention often involves invasive procedures or major surgery, such as a c-section, it's important for doctors to only use such methods when necessary. Unnecessary intervention can increase risks for both mothers and babies. When a physician makes such a call and it results in injuries, patients may have legal recourse for compensation.
Source: The New York Times, "Study Suggests Misplaced Fears in Longer Childbirths" Catherine Saint Louis, Feb. 05, 2014