Can You Predict Length of Second Labor?

With my last pregnancy, I started contractions at three in the morning, arrived at the hospital by six and was told that I was already seven centimeters dilated. Three hours later, my baby was born. Now I am pregnant again and am concerned about the hospital being an hour's drive away. Is there any research about the decreasing length of labor time with each successive pregnancy?


Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

There is no precise way of predicting length of labors. In general, each successive labor has a probability of progressing faster than the one previously.

However, too many variables impose themselves on any formula -- or even an educated guess. For example, a baby may be larger than the one preceding it. Also, the position and level of engagement varies with each baby. And the abdominal muscles lose tone to some degree so pushing efforts may be hampered.

You are at risk of another fast labor so I would discuss this situation with your care provider. It may be possible for you to be induced at term if you are at a risk of delivering on the way to the hospital. Your cervix can be checked every week in the last several weeks of the pregnancy and if early dilation and effacement occur, induction with stripping of the membranes or misoprostel or prostaglandin gel at term may be justified in your particular circumstance. Most women do make it to the hospital, however.

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