The assistance provided during labour and birth must respect the wishes and needs of the mother as far as possible, the World Health Organization confirms.
For mothers to be, childbirth represents a unique moment which should be enjoyed as a positive experience, not only medically speaking, but also in terms of the emotional and psychological needs of the woman. When pregnancy proceeds as it should physiologically, without risk, the assistance provided during a natural birth must of course prioritise the health of mother and child, but it must also reduce unnecessary clinical intervention to a minimum. The World Health Organization confirms the importance of this approach in the new recommendations and guidelines on assisting women who are about to bring a child into the world.
The message of the World Health Organization is clear: women in labour must be listened to, and their choices must be respected. The first of the considerations set out by the WHO regards labour, which is fast in some cases, and not in others. If everything is proceeding normally and mother and baby are doing fine, there is no need to intervene in order to speed up the process. In addition, the position assumed during labour – including on all fours and semi-reclined – should be the decision of the mother, and this also applies to who is present during the birth. Similarly, when medical intervention is required, the mother must always be fully informed and involved in all decisions.
When to go to the hospital?
There are several distinct stages of labour, and at the first signs of contractions, parents-to-be often rush to the clinic or to hospital. An increase in the intensity and frequency of the contractions combined with intestinal symptoms and the rupture of the membranes (the waters breaking) indicate that the happy event is not far off: in this instance, the advice of the doctor should always be followed with regard to the urgency of the situation.
The WHO also provides recommendations on induction of labour. The length of labour varies enormously from woman to woman and from pregnancy to pregnancy. There is no such thing as a "standard" time. However, one point that the new guidelines insists upon is the speed of dilation of the cervix. While dilatation of 1 cm per hour is considered "normal" on the labour ward, for many women, the cervix opens at a much slower rate, and this must also be respected, with adequate support provided.
The guidelines also advise that, in the absence of specific contraindications, natural childbirth is preferable to caesarean section. This may of course be necessary in the case of certain medical conditions, for example, if the baby is in the breech position, or if the mother is suffering from placenta praevia, where the position of the placenta prevents the foetus from passing into the birth canal. In case of premature or twin births, meanwhile, the doctor will determine the best means of delivery on a case by case basis. And if a woman has already had a caesarean section? Provided that there are no other contraindications, the mother should be allowed to try to deliver her baby naturally.