The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued new recommendations to establish global care standards for healthy pregnant women and reduce unnecessary medical interventions.
Worldwide, an estimated 140 million births take place every year. Most of these occur without complications for women and their babies. Yet, over the past 20 years, practitioners have increased the use of interventions that were previously only used to avoid risks or treat complications, such as oxytocin infusion to speed up labour or caesarean sections.
“We want women to give birth in a safe environment with skilled birth attendants in well-equipped facilities. However, the increasing medicalization of normal childbirth processes are undermining a woman’s own capability to give birth and negatively impacting her birth experience,” says Dr Princess Nothemba Simelela, WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents. “If labour is progressing normally, and the woman and her baby are in good condition, they do not need to receive additional interventions to accelerate labour,” she says.
The new WHO guideline includes evidence from 17 Cochrane Reviews and has 56 evidence-based recommendations on what care is needed throughout labour and immediately after for the woman and her baby. These include having a companion of choice during labour and childbirth; ensuring respectful care and good communication between women and health providers; maintaining privacy and confidentiality; and allowing women to make decisions about their pain management, labour and birth positions and natural urge to push, among others.