Which factors are associated with longer labor?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019
  • Author: Sarah Hagood Milton, MD; Chief Editor: Christine Isaacs, MD  more...
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A number of investigators have identified several maternal characteristics obstetric factors that are associated with the length of labor. One group reported that increasing maternal age was associated with a prolonged second stage but not first stage of labor. [21]

While nulliparity is associated with a longer labor compared to multiparas, increasing parity does not further shorten the duration of labor. [22] Some authors have observed that the length of labor differs among racial/ethnic groups. One group reported that Asian women have the longest first and second stages of labor compared with Caucasian or African American women [23] , and American Indian women had second stages shorter than those of non-Hispanic Caucasian women. [9] However, others report conflicting findings. [24, 25] Differences in the results may have been due to variations in study designs, study populations, labor management, or statistical power.

In one large retrospective study of the length of labor, specifically with respect to race and/or ethnicity, the authors observed no significant differences in the length of the first stage of labor among different racial/ethnic groups. However, the second stage was shorter in African American women than in Caucasian women for both nulliparas (-22 min) and multiparas (-7.5 min). Hispanic nulliparas, compared with their Caucasian counterparts, also had a shortened second stage, whereas no differences were seen for multiparas. In contrast, Asian nulliparas had a significantly prolonged second stage compared with their Caucasian counterparts, and no differences were seen for multiparas. [26]

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