The World Health Organization recommends that a country's C-section rate should stay under 10-15 percent of births, but in the U.S that rate continues to climb to over 30 percent each year. C-sections are, of course, a lifesaving and necessary procedure, but a new study points to outdated information that often leads to unneeded surgery and complications and offers a surprisingly easy fix. The simple solution? Time.
The study found that giving first-time laboring mothers just one extra hour to push could cut the C-section rate in half.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists sets a general guideline for the second stage of labor (pushing) of two hours for first-time mothers who have not had an epidural, and three hours if they have. If the labor is prolonged beyond that point, they are often given a C-section or other methods of assisted delivery, such as a vacuum or forceps. But this study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology illustrates that a new and updated approach to labor is needed.
"[The time recommendation] came from expert opinion from the 1800s," Dr. Alexis Gimovsky told the Huffington Post. Gimovsky is a fellow in maternal fetal medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, and an author on the study. "Since then, there's really only been retrospective data used to validate that guideline."
The new study is small, including only 78 first-time mothers delivering at the same hospital, but the evidence is compelling: Overall, 43.2 percent of women who were given the standard three hours of pushing time ended up with a C-section. Only 19.5 percent of women who pushed for four hours, just one extra hour, had one. And neither the mothers or the babies were put at extra risk due to the lengthier pushing phase.
Though the researchers caution that further study is needed before guidelines could potentially be changed, "a woman can have a conversation with her doctor during labor if the primary reason for a C-section is the length of time ... it's OK to ask to see if you're a candidate for waiting longer. It's something so simple that can make a major difference in your life."
image via Katie-Kate