Over the last nine months, you’ve watch your body go through some pretty incredible changes. But as you prepare for labor, it can feel like your OB or medical provider is trying to take control of your body—and your birth. Thankfully, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has heard your (labor) pains, releasing new guidelines to scale back intervention in low-risk pregnancies.
The committee opinion, released on Wednesday, encourages medical professionals to work with you to meet your goals for labor and delivery.
“When appropriate, providers are encouraged to consider using low-intervention approaches that have been associated with healthy outcomes and may increase a woman’s satisfaction with her birth experience,” the guidelines read. “It is important that midwives, ob-gyns and other care providers collaborate to support women both emotionally and physically over the course of labor.”
Here’s what else the guidelines suggest for low-risk pregnancies:
- Delayed hospital admission until 5 to 6 centimeters dilated
- Not rupturing the amniotic sac
- Intermittent (rather than continuous) fetal heart rate monitoring
- Frequent labor position changes
- Encouragement of individual pushing techniques
- Continuous emotional support
That last one is especially important to ACOG. Lead author Tekoa L. King, CNM, MPH, ACMN, explains emotional support can help better manage pain.
“Techniques such as an epidural can relieve pain but may not ease anxiety or suffering,” she says. “Providing emotional support and coping mechanisms have proven positive outcomes, therefore, it’s recommended that providers consider instituting policies that allow for the integration of support personnel in the labor experience. This strategy may be beneficial for patients and cost effective for hospitals due to an association with lower cesarean rates.”
So, yes, if you want a natural birth, OBs should be on your side unless there’s a medical concern. Pain-controlling strategies such as massages, water immersion in the first stage of labor and relaxation techniques will be encouraged by medical providers.
Unfortunately, if you’ve experienced pregnancy complications, these guidelines probably won’t apply to you. ACOG notes that low-risk pregnancy can be defined in several ways, “but generally involves a clinical scenario in which a woman presents at term in spontaneous labor and has had an uncomplicated course of prenatal care.”