New research may change the way we think about birth, the use of epidurals, and medical intervention.

Births in a hospital are strictly regulated to meet certain standards. One of those standards is about the acceptable amount of time laboring women should be in the 2nd stage, or the “pushing” stage. If the 2nd stage is taking longer than the OB/GYN deems acceptable, further intervention is typically recommended. This may mean the use of forceps, vacuum extraction, or even a c-section if a woman isn’t progressing based on a one-size-fits-all schedule.

It’s been known for many years that the use of epidurals prolongs labor, which is why woman are given an additional one hour before further intervention is encouraged. New research, which studied 42,000 women over a 32 year period, proves women should be given even more time to progress.

The study, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, finds that epidurals lengthen time spent in the pushing stage by, on average, 2-3 hours, not the assumed one hour. That means women have been unnecessarily pushed toward further intervention or surgery for decades.

The current recommendations were developed based on norms from the 1950s, when women were having children earlier in life, women and babies weighed less, and only 8% of births included epidurals. Today, epidural use is over 60% nationwide, even approaching 90% in certain areas. The new recommendations will hopefully encourage OB/GYNs to be more patient with their patients, in an effort to help reduce the U.S. c-section rate, which is far higher than the recommended rate from the World Health Organization.

As a chiropractor who has the honor of treating many expectant moms, it’s my goal to help every woman have the birth they want, regardless of their birth location, care provider, or preference for medication.  However, if you’re interested in avoiding a c-section, here are some things to consider while planning for your birth:

  1. Hire a doula – A doula serves the emotional needs and physical support of women who are in labor or postpartum. Studies show doulas help reduce labor times, limit medical intervention, and improve breastfeeding outcomes. Not sure where to start? The Orchid Nest in Delray offers free ‘Meet the Doula’ nights every month.
  2. Attend classes – When it comes to natural birth, education is key. No, the free classes offered by your hospital aren’t enough. Look into Bradley Method, Lamaze, or similar programs. Our office is a location for Hypnobirthing classes and a new series is starting soon!
  3. Choose your provider carefully – Your current gynecologist may not be the best person to help you have the birth of your dreams. Each provider approaches birth differently and may have very different outcomes. Have a conversation with your provider about your wishes and determine if they’re the best fit for you. Maybe a different obstetrician, nurse midwife, or licensed midwife is your best option!
  4. Give birth at an out-of-hospital location – With the appropriate care provider, having your baby at home or a birth center is just as safe as a hospital.  They also have an added benefit of greater comfort for the family and more respect for your wishes. Check out The Palms Birth House in Delray, where I see patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  5. Chiropractic should be a part of every woman’s prenatal care. Adjustments to the pelvis can help improve comfort during pregnancy as well as help women have a safer, easier, faster birth!