For more than 60 years, it has been the standard of care to try to speed up childbirth with drugs, or to perform a cesarean section if labor was seen as progressing too slowly. Now a new set of recommendations is changing the game. In February, the World Health Organization released a set of 56 recommendations in a report called Intrapartum Care for a Positive Childbirth Experience. One key recommendation is to allow a slow labor to continue without trying to hurry the birth along with drugs or other medical interventions. The paper cites studies showing that a long, slow labor — when the mother and baby are doing well — is not necessarily dangerous.
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.
For health care facilities, in addition to providing the clinical care specific to labour and childbirth, it also means making sure that women are treated with respect and that they have the very basics of oral fluids and food during labour and childbirth. Continuity of care, regular monitoring and documentation of events as well as clear communication between medical practitioners and clients are essential, as is ensuring that a referral plan is in place should more advance medical care become necessary. These are all essential elements of good quality labour and childbirth care that every woman and her baby should receive.
This guideline complements the recent WHO guidelines on the provision of antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience.The guideline contains 56 evidence-based recommendations detailing the clinical and non-clinical care that is needed throughout labour and immediately afterwards for women and for newborns. One of the key new recommendations in this guideline recognizes that every labour is unique and that they do not all progress at the benchmark rate of 1 cm/hour of cervical dilatation.
World Health Organization. (2018). New Guidelines Establish The Rights Of Women When Giving Birth. pps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/260178/9789241550215-eng.pdf;jsessionid=8CC8B938A928347D8BB634AA7BDBEB21?sequence=1