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Quicker Labor The Second Time Around

Q. My first labor seemed to last forever. Will my second be just as long?

A. Good news! Though the average labor for first-time moms lasts about 12 to 14 hours, and 20 hours wouldn't be unusual, subsequent babies are often born in half that time. First labors are generally longer because the cervix and vagina have never experienced a baby passing through them before, says Laura Corio, M.D., an ob-gyn at Mt. Sinai Hospital, in New York City. By a second pregnancy, your body is more prepared for childbirth. Your cervix will dilate more quickly, which makes labor much shorter. Also, look forward to less pushing as your vaginal muscles "give" more easily to the baby's bulk.

But quicker labors don't apply if you had a C-section the first time, since your cervix and vagina haven't been stretched (though it is still a possibility if the C-section was done after you'd entered the pushing stage).

Tip: An epidural can prolong childbirth if given before you're 4 centimeters dilated, so try to wait until after that point to ask for pain relief.