Medical staff and midwives should not intervene to speed up a woman’s labour unless there are real risks of complications, says the World Health Organisation (WHO), warning that too many are not having the experience of natural childbirth that they want.
New guidance from the WHO overturns decades of previous advice, which said that labour which progressed at a slower rate than 1 cm of cervical dilation per hour in the first stage was risky. Women are often given the oxytocin to speed up labour and end up with epidurals because of the pain, followed by forceps or vacuum deliveries and in some cases a caesarean section.
Many women want a natural birth and prefer to rely on their bodies to give birth to their baby without the aid of medical intervention and research. 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 (WHO).
Every year there are about 140 million births, most of which are uncomplicated. Yet women are increasingly being subjected to medical interventions in the name of risk-avoidance, which may be unnecessary and unwelcome to them, says the WHO. The caesarean section rate in particular is too high around the world and as major surgery, carries risks of its own.
Adopting a woman-centred philosophy and a human-rights based approach opens the door to many of the care options that women want such as the right to have a companion of choice with them throughout the labour and birth as well as the freedom to move around during the early stages of labour and to choose their position for birth. These recommendations are all evidence-based, optimize health and well-being, and have been shown to have a positive impact on women’s experience of childbirth.
World Health Organization. (2018). WHO recommendations: intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience. Retrieved from