Healthy Birth Practices vs. Reality

Experts agree on what “healthy birth” requires. But what’s really happening?

This article by Sharon Muza from Science and Sensibility compares the well-respected Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices with the realities reported in Childbirth Connection’s 2013 Listening To Mothers III Report, a survey of 2400 U.S. mothers.

My notes below are just to pique your interest. Take a look at the original article for details.

Healthy Birth Practice 1: Let Labor Begin on Its Own

Only 69% in the study did not induce labor medically.

Some of the reasons for induction:
30% wanted their pregnancies over with, or wanted to control the timing of the birth.
16% were induced for a suspected large baby — but the average weight of these babies was less than 8 lbs.
18% were induced for being “overdue” — but the average gestational age of these was less than 40 weeks.

Healthy Birth Practice 2: Walk, Move Around and Change Positions in Labor

Only 43% walked around after being admitted to the hospital.
Only 40% used movement or position changes as a form of non-pharmacological pain relief.

Healthy Birth Practice 3: Bring a Loved One, Friend or Doula for Continuous Support

99% brought support! Hooray!
6% used a doula.
75% knew what a doula is, and of those, 27% wished they’d had a doula.

Healthy Birth Practice 4: Avoid Interventions That are Not Medically Necessary

87% had at least one of the five big interventions (attempted labor induction, epidural, pitocin augmentation, assisted delivery with vacuum or forceps, or cesarean).
60% had at least two of the five.

(Of course, interventions are necessary in some cases, but there is no evidence suggesting that they are needed in the majority of cases, nor would our species have survived if that had been the case.)

Healthy Birth Practice 5: Avoid Giving Birth on Your Back and Follow Your Body’s Urges to Push

68% birthed on their backs.

Healthy Birth Practice 6: Keep Mother and Baby Together; It’s Best for Mother, Baby and Breastfeeding

Only 47% of mothers had their babies in their arms within the first hour.
49% of mothers who stated that they intended to exclusively breastfeed were given formula samples or offers.

So, parents, care providers, and policymakers, the take-home here is that we still need to do our homework so we can make better informed evidence-based decisions. As for me, back to fear-busting!

Vicki Elson, MA, CCE, CD

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