A new study found that when women were given just one more hour to push, C-section rates went down by roughly half.

Huffington Post report, while the investigation — published in the March issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology — is small and unlikely to fundamentally change medical norms any time soon, researchers say it offers a much-needed critique of potentially outdated standards.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says that first-time mums generally have three hours to push their baby out if they’ve had an epidural, two if they haven’t, and beyond that, they’re thought to be experiencing a prolonged second stage of labour.

“[The time recommendation] came from expert opinion from the 1800s,” said Dr. Alexis Gimovsky, a fellow in maternal foetal medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, and an author on the study. “Since then, there’s really only been retrospective data used to validate that guideline.”

In the 1950s, researchers looked over earlier data and found that women who delivered their babies within two hours had lower rates of infection and serious postpartum bleeding, for example. In 1955, another team concluded that most women without anaesthesia give birth within two hours.

The new study included 78 first-time mums delivering at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, who were randomly assigned to have either the usual time limit of three hours, or allowed an extra hour to push. (The researchers looked only at women who had epidurals, not because that’s what they set out to do, but because they simply did not have any patients who did not get pain meds and who qualified for the study.)

“The study really showed what we’ve seen in practice for years, which is that there can be benefits to allowing women to labour longer,” said Gimovsky. “We were excited to see that it dramatically reduced the risk of C-section in this specific group of women.”

“A woman can have a conversation with her doctor during labour if the primary reason for a C-section is the length of time … it’s OK to ask to see if you’re a candidate for waiting longer,” she said. “It’s something so simple that can make a major difference in your life.”

How long was your labour?

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  • It’s always worth keeping the option open. Women should never feel pressured to have a C section. This are is well worth investigating further.


  • I wish I’d been allowed to labour longer rather than rushed off for an emergency c-section with my first. The recovery is truly awful compared to a vaginal birth. Was glad I didn’t have to have surgery for my 2 girls.


  • A lot of babies were stillborn or died not long afterwards in the 1800s and early 1900s. Most Mums are in labour for a few hours, not just 2 or up to 5. Some are left so long that the baby goes into foetal distress, or there just isn’t room for it to come out the normal way. I know a Mum who after several hours had 3 epidurals which had no effect at all, Prior to that she had been vomitting for hours and the hospital didn’t even want to admit her. She was in labour for for nearly 30 hours and the midwives kept saying she was doing OK. It ended up being a being a very rushed emergency C-Section (The nurses were in no hurry to take her down to the operating theatre) and the baby really struggled


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