Labor Lasts 3 Hours Longer Than It Did in 1960s Study suggests epidurals may be to blame By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff Posted Apr 4, 2012 9:13 AM CDT 8 comments Comments Childbirth takes longer these days, a new study finds. (Shutterstock) (Newser) – The good news for modern women giving birth: The use of epidural anesthesia is massively more common than it was 50 years ago. The bad news: Those very drugs may be to blame for labor lasting longer than it did 50 years ago. Today's first-time mothers spend 2.6 more hours in the first stage of labor (before pushing begins) than the mothers of yesteryear, according to a study that compared data from 1959-1966 with data from 2002-2008. Epidurals could be to blame because they make it harder to push, the Globe and Mail reports. Other differences the study found: Pregnant women weigh more these days. Their average pre-pregnancy BMI was 24.9, compared to 23 for women 50 years ago. Pregnant women are older these days. On average, they were four years older, and that could also help explain why labor takes longer. "Older mothers tend to take longer to give birth," says the study's lead author. Babies today are born earlier and weigh more. On average, they were born five days earlier.