Article open access publication

Maternal obesity and its effect on labour duration in nulliparous women: a retrospective observational cohort study

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, Springer Nature, ISSN 1471-2393

Volume 17, 1, 2017

DOI:10.1186/s12884-017-1413-6, Dimensions: pub.1090612849, PMC: PMC5508690, PMID: 28701155,


* Corresponding author



  1. (1) Nordsjællands Hospital, grid.414092.a, Capital Region
  2. (2) Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 9, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark






BACKGROUND: Obesity is increasing among primipara women. We aimed to describe the association between body mass index (BMI) during early-pregnancy and duration of labour in nulliparous women. METHODS: Retrospective observational cohort study of 1885 nulliparous women with a single cephalic presentation from 37 0/7 to 42 6/7 weeks of completed gestation and spontaneous or induced labour at Nordsjællands Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2011 and 2012. Total duration of labour and the first and second stages of labour were compared between early-pregnancy normal-weight (BMI <25 kg/m2), overweight (BMI 25-29.9 kg/m2), and obese (BMI ≥30 kg/m2) women. Proportional hazards and multiple logistic regression models were applied. RESULTS: Early pregnancy BMI classified 1246 (66.1%) women as normal weight, 350 (18.6%) as overweight and 203 (10.8%) as obese. No difference in the duration of total or first stage of active labour was found for overweight (adjusted HR = 1.01, 95% CI 0.88-1.16) or obese (adjusted HR = 1.07, 95% CI 0.90-1.28) compared to normal weight women. Median active labour duration was 5.83 h for normal weight, 6.08 h for overweight and 5.90 h for obese women. The risk of caesarean delivery increased significantly for overweight and obese compared to normal weight women (odds ratios (OR) 1.62; 95%CI 1.18-2.22 and 1.76; 95%CI 1.20-2.58, respectively). Caesarean deliveries were performed earlier in labour in obese than normal-weight women (HR = 1.80, 95%CI 1.28-2.54). CONCLUSION: BMI had no significant effect on total duration of active labour. Risk of caesarean delivery increased with increasing BMI. Caesarean deliveries are undertaken earlier in obese women compared to normal weight women following the onset of active labour, shortening the total duration of active labour.

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