giving birth

WHO Releases New Guidelines, Says Medical Intervention Should Not Be Used to Speed Up Labor

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The c-section rate in this country has skyrocketed in recent years, and early labor intervention has been linked to the increase. For decades, the standard advice used by doctors and hospitals said labor that progressed slowly was risky. “Slowly” in considered less than 1cm of cervical dilation per hour. Medical intervention in those early stages was common. But the World Health Organization has released new labor intervention guidelines, and they contradict this outdated advice. Which could mean more women will be allowed to labor at their own pace, and have the birth they want.

The new WHO labor intervention guidelines call for fewer medical interventions in early labor.

Unless, of course, there are real risks or complications.

Up until now, women whose labors progress slowly are often pushed into medical interventions to speed up the process. Pitocin is often given to increase contractions. This can lead to the woman asking for an epidural to deal with the pain. This can lead to forceps or vacuum deliveries, and in many cases, an unplanned c-section. The common belief was that slow labor in early stages was risky to mom and baby. It’s this “risk-avoidance” that leads to intervention and deviation from the natural births many woman want.

 However, in a normal pregnancy, there is little reason for medical intervention during labor.

Dr. Princess Nothemba Simelela is the WHO assistant director-general for family, women, children and adolescents. She says, “If labour is progressing normally, and the woman and her baby are in good condition, they do not need to receive additional interventions to accelerate labour.” The new guidelines also aim to help more women have a positive childbirth experience. Ian Askew, director of the WHO’s department of reproductive health and research, says women prefer to rely on their own bodies during labor. Askew continues, “Even when a medical intervention is wanted or needed, the inclusion of women in making decisions about the care they receive is important to ensure that they meet their goal of a positive childbirth experience.”

As with any stage of your pregnancy, it’s important to be your own advocate. Make sure your doctor is aware of your birth plan. And discuss when or if you’ll be open to medical intervention. Above all, research your options and find the doctor and facility who are going to work with you, not against you, during labor.

(Image: iStock/tatyana_tomsickova)