"Failure to Progress"

Research by Zhang and others suggests that the Friedman curve has not kept up with the times. Far more women are getting epidurals, and they're putting on more pounds than ever during pregnancy -- both factors that can slow labor.

"Mother's weight has a direct effect on baby size," Zhang says. "The babies are getting bigger. That's not just in the U.S., but also in other countries. The bigger baby not only means slower labor, but also a higher C-section rate. The question is, how much is that due to the big baby, or how much is due to the expectation that labor is supposed to go fast, but it didn't?"

Catherine Spong, head of perinatology research at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, says she learned a valuable lesson while training to be an OB/GYN: "If you were patient enough, most babies could come out vaginally."

Rita Rubin is a prizewinning health journalist at USA Today. Formerly a medical reporter for U.S. News & World Report, Rubin has written for Health, Ladies Home Journal, Reader's Digest and The Journal of General Internal Medicine, among many other medical and lay publications. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and two daughters.

Reprinted from: What If I Have a C-Section?: How to Prepare, How to Decide, How to Recover Quickly by Rita Rubin

Copyright © by Rita Rubin. Permission to republiksh granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.