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New WHO Recommendations for a Healthy Birth

The World Health Organisation has recently released recommendations to reduce unnecessary medical interventions in labour. The guideline recognises that every labour and childbirth is unique and the duration of the active first stage of labour varies from one woman to another.

The recommendations are all positive and promote greater choice and freedom to allow women to choose how a birth progresses. It is recommended that women have a companion of choice during labour and childbirth and hospital staff ensure respectful care and good communication between women and health providers as well as maintaining privacy and confidentiality, which must be supported.

The study also suggests allowing greater freedom in choice of pain management, labour and birth positions and natural urge to push, among others.

The new guidance from the WHO overturns decades of previous advice, which said that labour which progressed at a slower rate than 1cm of cervical dilation per hour in the first stage was risky and could harm the newborn. However, WHO now recognises that the old guidance may be unrealistic for some women and is inaccurate in identifying women at risk of adverse birth outcomes. As such, a slower cervical dilation rate than this should not be seen as routine indication to accelerate labour and birth.

The guidelines are a step towards reducing high rates of unnecessary or ineffective medical interventions which will save the NHS, and other healthcare providers, funds to offer to other patients over the long term.

The concern in relation to this advice is to ensure women receive enough support during their labour. All pregnancies carry risks and it is essential to ensure that those patients who have concerns, or have been through complications previously, are able to access the medical treatment and support they require. High quality care for all pregnant women and their newborns, throughout pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal periods, is essential to ensure that mothers and children thrive.


 

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