The health industry is beginning to recognize the incredible power of a woman’s body.
Earlier this month, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists released new recommendations for labor and childbirth. The board has reviewed the efficacy of interventions in low-risk women, and found that many of the formerly recommended interventions actually don’t make a difference in the health of the baby or the mother.
So what does this mean?
“These new guidelines are giving the power back to the woman. They’re saying she can do this. She’s not sick. Her body is made to handle this,” said Clare Friis, a certified doula in Minnesota.
The new recommendations allow the woman to make more choices surrounding her labor, especially in the early stages. Some of the highlights are:
A woman in normal labor should be given individualized care, and offered a variety of options.
Women in early labor should be allowed hydration. They should also be allowed non-pharmacological pain management, such as massages, baths or relaxation techniques.
Women need continuous emotional support during labor, and should have access to it. Instead of constant fetal monitoring via machines hooked up to their bellies, women should have the option of of a handheld Doppler monitor.
Women in early labor should be allowed to move around. Women in normal labor should push however they feel comfortable.
Friis said that if hospitals choose to implement the recommendations, mothers could feel more comfortable at the hospital.
“Prior experiences with hospitals can make it hard for the woman to go in. They want a space where they won’t feel afraid, but will feel supported and cared for,” Friis said.
She added that women shouldn’t have to face unnecessary intervention just to have access to full care in the event of an emergency.
She said that in the past, women have felt that they weren’t in charge of their own birth experience. In fact, they were sometimes asked to do things that ran contrary to logic. For example, she said that it made no sense to deny a woman water before a labor that could last for more than 24 hours.
“A woman running a marathon needs nourishment,” Friis said.
She said that the intermittent monitoring will also allow women to to be in control.
“Continuous monitoring is cumbersome. Mom has to stay in the bed, alarms are constantly going off…With intermittent monitoring, we’re still going to know if something is wrong, but because they’re not hooked up, they’re able to move around and listen to their body,” Friis said.
Hospitals are not required to follow the new recommendations, but Friis said they may help women with low-risk pregnancies who want a low-intervention birth get the help they want. In fact, that seems to be the purpose of the recommendations.
“The desire to avoid unnecessary interventions during labor and birth is shared by health care providers and pregnant women. Obstetrician–gynecologists…can help women meet their goals for labor and birth by using techniques that are associated with minimal interventions and high rates of patient satisfaction,” the document reads.
Friis recommends expectant moms who want low-intervention births familiarize themselves with the recommendations, and feel free to discuss them with their doctors.