The duration of spontaneous active and pushing phases of labour among 75,243 US women when intervention is minimal: A prospective, observational cohort study

Ellen L. Tilden, Jonathan M. Snowden, Marit L. Bovbjerg, Melissa Cheyney, Jodi Lapidus, Jack Wiedrick, Aaron B. Caughey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Friedman's curve, despite acknowledged limitations, has greatly influenced labour management. Interventions to hasten birth are now ubiquitous, challenging the contemporary study of normal labour. Our primary purpose was to characterise normal active labour and pushing durations in a large, contemporary sample experiencing minimal intervention, stratified by parity, age, and body mass index (BMI). Methods: This is a secondary analysis of the national, validated Midwives Alliance of North America 4·0 (MANA Stats) data registry (n = 75,243), prospectively collected between Jan 1, 2012 and Dec 31, 2018 to describe labour and birth in home and birth center settings where common obstetric interventions [i.e., oxytocin, planned cesarean] are not available. The MANA Stats cohort includes pregnant people who intended birth in these settings and prospectively collects labour and birth processes and outcomes regardless of where birth or postpartum care ultimately occurs. Survival curves were calculated to estimate labour duration percentiles (e.g. 10th, 50th, 90th, and others of interest), by parity and sub-stratified by age and BMI. Findings: Compared to multiparous women (n = 32,882), nulliparous women (n = 15,331) had significantly longer active labour [e.g., median 7.5 vs. 3.3 h; 95th percentile 34.8 vs. 12.0 h] and significantly longer pushing phase [e.g., median 1.1 vs. 0.2 h; 95th percentile 5.5 vs. 1.1 h]. Among nulliparous women, maternal age >35 was associated with longer active first stage of labour and longer pushing phase, and BMI >30 kg/m² was associated with a longer active first stage of labour but a shorter pushing phase. Patterns among multiparous women were different, with those >35 years of age experiencing a slightly more rapid active labour and no difference in pushing duration, and those with BMI >30 kg/m² experiencing a slightly longer active labour but, similarly, no difference in pushing duration. Interpretation: Nulliparous women had significantly longer active first stage and pushing phase durations than multiparous women, with further variation noted by age and by BMI. Contemporary US women with low-risk pregnancies who intended birth in settings absent common obstetric interventions and in spontaneous labour with a live, vertex, term, singleton, non-anomalous fetus experienced labour durations that were often longer than prior characterizations, particularly among nulliparous women. Results overcome prior and current sampling limitations to refine understanding of normal labour durations and time thresholds signaling ‘labour dystocia’. Funding: OHSU Nursing Innovation and OHSU University Shared Resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101447
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Labour duration
  • Labour dystocia
  • Labour progress
  • Prolonged labour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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