Women planning to deliver at some birth centers are being encouraged to stay at home when their labor begins. They are advised to rest, eat, walk around and not to time every contraction. “We tell the mom not to spend all her labor energy in early labor. We don’t expect a lot of progress,” said Jessica Henman, a certified nurse midwife who directs the Birth and Wellness Center in O’Fallon, Mo. “We remind her things are going to go slowly.”
Last month, national obstetrician organizations together released new guidelines aimed at reducing the spiraling cesarean rate in the U.S. A big change was allowing women much more time in labor, based on new research. Other changes include: providing continuous labor support, letting women attempt to deliver twins, not using the fetus’ weight as a reason for surgery and doing more to understand electronic fetal heart rate readings. Women’s health advocates said the guidelines developed jointly by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine could completely change how women approach birthing options.
“The consensus statement has the potential to be a game-changer in ongoing efforts to improve the quality of maternal health care, and maternal and child health outcomes,” the National Partnership for Women and Families said in a statement. In 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available, C-sections accounted for almost one out of every three of the 4 million deliveries nationwide. That was up from 28 percent four years earlier. After declining through the 1980s and into the mid-1990s, C-sections became the way more and more babies entered the world.