What if we stopped telling women to push when they’re in labor? That’s the philosophy behind a new program at a U.K. hospital, and the results are amazing.
If you’ve ever seen a woman delivering a baby in a movie or a television show, you have heard the rallying cry: “Push!” If you’ve had a baby yourself, you’ve likely heard it too.
The staff at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent initiated a project to stop telling women to push. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives put out a call for action after seeing a sharp rise in severe perineal tearing affecting nearly 14,000 women in 2013 to 2014.
Over a 12-month period after the program was implemented, the incidence of women with severe tearing went down from 7% to 1%. How have they gotten such amazing results? Largely, simply by not asking women to push when they are in labor.
Guidelines also discourage women from staying on their backs in labour — they are encouraged to try alternate positions. Women are also encouraged to slow down during labor, and nurses coach them to breathe through contractions instead of pushing.
Midwives were also discouraged from pulling a baby out once their shoulders emerged and instead supporting the baby’s weight as it emerges, all of which reduces pressure on the perineum. Holding a hand against the perineum while the baby crowns and is born also provides important counterpressure and support for the perineum.
The program has been so successful at Medway that the results were published in the European Journal Of Obstetrics & Gynaecology And Reproductive Biology, and there are plans to roll it out nationally.
The results of this program and study won’t come as a shock or surprise to many midwives and obstetrical care providers, but it is great news for women everywhere that these methods are finally getting formal recognition as the better, safer way for women to labor.