No Need for Speed When it Comes to Labor and Birth, Says WHO

WHO new guidelines.jpgFor some things in life, it makes sense to go fast, like when you're in a race and the ultimate goal is how quickly you make it to the finish line. 

The same theory is not best applied to having a baby. And yet, in hospitals across the United States, and increasingly in countries worldwide, there is an overuse of medical interventions, like induction and cesarean, that are used to speed up labor and birth in an otherwise healthy parent and baby. 

For these reasons, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new care recommendations to establish global care standards for healthy pregnant people and to lower unnecessary medical interventions. The new guidelines include 56 evidence-based recommendations on the kind of care needed for the pregnant person and baby throughout labor and birth, and immediately after. The ultimate goal is to place women at the center of their care during labor, birth, and postpartum. Below, we have outlined some of the most important WHO recommendations for families:

  • Every labor is unique and they do not all progress at the benchmark rate of 1 cm/hour of cervical dilatation. If birth is not progressing at this benchmark, it should not be a routine indication for medical intervention to speed up labor or birth.
  • The birthing person should have a companion of choice during labor and childbirth
  • Respectful care and good, effective communication should be the goal of health care providers with the families they serve 
  • The birthing person should be in charge of making decisions about their pain management, labor and birth positions, and natural urge to push, among others
  • Health professionals should advise healthy pregnant women that the duration of labor varies greatly from one woman to another
  • Medical professionals should work to provide the highest quality of care, which includes avoiding unnecessary medical interventions, encouraging women to move around freely during early labor, ensuring privacy and confidentially, and providing adequate information about pain relief.

Take a look at the complete guidelines and ask yourself, "Is this the kind of care I am receiving?" If not, it may be time to reevaluate your care provider. You and your baby's health in labor and birth depends on it.

In a statement issued by the Assistant Director General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents at WHO, Dr. Princess Nothemba Simelela says:

"Pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period are memorable events in a woman’s life. The application of these guidelines will enhance this experience for all women across the world."

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