10 Overused & Unnecessary Pregnancy Procedures

Health Check 98

birth laborYou're having a baby! Welcome to the incredibly overwhelming time when you're faced with making the best, most informed choices. Those decisions start the minute we find out we're pregnant. We have doulas, midwives, birth educators, and doctors to share their knowledge, but we should do our own investigating in books, online, and through friends so it feels right and works best for us.

With this baby-having, I think every woman should have a birth plan. And then a plan in case that birth plan needs to change. Because it probably will and that's okay. What's not okay is having unnecessary procedures affecting us and our babies without us knowing why, and if any potential consequences could come from those procedures. I stumbled across a Consumer Reports article on what to reject when you're expecting. A must-read. Let's review.

Before we delve into these 10 procedures that no doubt will cause many to get upset and say, "But I needed that!" please know that if you did need any of the things on this list, that's precisely the point. Many of us do really need certain things to be done (I had three of these), but far too many don't. This also isn't about beating yourself up if you did any of these things in the past and wish you didn't. This list is here to inform, not enrage. 

More from The Stir: Painless Labor Really Is Possible (VIDEO)

What we should also note that it's in Consumer Reports because a hospital is still a business. You wouldn't go into a dentist, open your mouth, and say do whatever you want. You wouldn't go into a restaurant, give them your credit card, and say just feed me especially if you have any food allergies. You have choices. You're paying for it. You should make the best decisions for you. And when you're pregnant, this means the best choice for baby, too. Here is the list of often unnecessary procedures.

  1. C-section when you are low-risk and it's a first birth. It's major surgery. There are risks.
  2. An automatic second c-section. More hospitals are welcoming the right candidate to try vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC); 75 percent of the women who do attempt are successful. Repeat c-section do present their own dangers. Tori Spelling had complications and was hospitalized due to hers.
  3. Elective early delivery. Thirty-nine weeks is full-term. Late-term preemies (born at 37 or 38 weeks) often have issues because there is still more growing baby has to do in the womb even in just a week or two.
  4. Inducing labor without medical reason. It's risky. If it's not time, it's not time. It can make labor longer and increase risk of c-section.
  5. Ultrasounds after 24 weeks. There is a spike in c-sections for those who got ultrasounds late in pregnancy, but the experts say oftentimes there is really no need and the info gained is often incorrect.
  6. Continuous electronic fetal monitoring. This is recommended if you're on labor-enhancing drugs, had an epidural, or attempting a VBAC, but otherwise the monitors are restricting and unnecessary.
  7. Early epidurals. Getting them too early can make labor longer and not let you know when you have to push. Wait until the end if you are getting an epi.
  8. Routinely rupturing the amniotic membranes. There's an increased risk of cesarean here as well, and has proven to not be needed.
  9. Routine episiotomy. Sometimes needed, but most times not. Plus, more healing.
  10. Sending your newborn to the nursery. For a special need, of course, but studies show mamas get just as much rest when baby is bed-in.

What do you think of these unnecessary procedures? Have any others to add?


Image via MammaLoves/Flickr

labor & delivery, pregnancy health, tests & procedures, natural parenting, c-sections

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nonmember avatar christina g.

I think you messed up the weeks for full-term vs. late-term premies. Full term is 37 and late term premies are 35-36.



I guess I had 3 (maybe). Hindsight bias I think I had my epidural too early, my water broke on it's own but I was ruptured more than 20 hr (infection risk) which bought me an extra day in the hospital so I always think if I had waited maybe I would have delivered faster and could be been discharged a day earlier. I had a 32 and 38 week USs for measuring 3+ weeks bigger but he was a normal size (born 7#8oz at 38 weeks). I pushed for 30 min with the head making no progress out, stretching attempts made, so I got an episiotomy and he came out with little effort the next push.

corri... corrinacs

I agree with most of these EXCEPT for 2 things.


1. Constant Fetal Monitoring.  I am GLAD I had this with my son when I went into labor 5 years ago tomorrow!  I was planning a c-section becuase he was footling breach, but I started labor before his scheduled date.  They put me on the monitors and left the room to get things ready for me.  The monitors started beeping like crazy and the next thing I know they got me otu of there and into the OR STAT!!!!!  My son would have died if I hadn't had the constant fetal monitoring.  After that, I had to with my second son.....that fear of almost losing my first like that sticks with me.


2. Bed-in vs. not....take what you need!  I used the nursury quite often to get some extra zz's after my c-sections and I don't feel bad about it at all!  They brought him to me to feed on demand and he was with me most of the time during the day!  But I was getting over surgery, and there are just sometimes I needed some extra rest.


So, in those two I don't agree in the slightest :).

Lovex23 Lovex23

With my second pregnancy I went into labor early 36 weeks. I got to 5 centimeters and that was it. They said OK c-section but it didn't feel right. My sons vitals were all good and I was in pain but knew I could do this naturally so I refused. They kept trying to say it was best but I knew better. I got my butt up rocked a bit and before anyone knew it I was fully dilated. They actually didn't believe me and the doctor had went home to another town! When the nurse finally looked my son was almost out and they caught him like a football :) I know c-sections can be life saving but in my case I knew there was no life in danger. Now I'm having my second son in a few months and I'm glad c-section most likely wont be necessary.

purpl... purpleflower514

IV with fluids is not necessary for every woman. It an also make the baby retain water thus making the baby heavier at birth and more likely to "lose more weight", weight that should never have been there in the first place.

MyPic... MyPicketFence

I disagree with number six completely.  It may be unnessecary but it could save your child's life.  I was on the monitor and it showed that my son was in distress as I was pushing and he was delivered immediately through vacuum and was blue.  My son almost died, my contractions were causing his heart to stop beating.  Had I not been wearing those monitors my doctors would have continued to allow me to push and who knows what would have happened.  On the monitors that is just erring on the side of caution.

BubbsJNL BubbsJNL

As I was reading, I was nodding my head in agreement with the "constant fetal monitoring" being unnecessary.  I remember during labor with my first, I found that the contractions were far less painful if my bladder was absolutely, completely dry which, in hindsight, was probably psychosomatic but it gave me something to do, so I kept getting up to go to the restroom.  Each time, my hubby would have to disconnect all of the wires and then reconnect them and it was a pain in the neck.


Then, as I was thinking about all of that, I remembered that I ended up having an emergency c-section because the baby's heart rate was disappearing during each contraction.  If I hadn't been being monitored, we wouldn't have know that, so I don't know about that one.

OoOJa... OoOJanisOoO

I agree with the article that these procedures are probably over done but moms need to listen to their instincts. I just had my fourth at a military hospital and they use a very hands off approach to the point that I was ignored and my concerns were dismissed. I have big babies and my last one who was 9lbs 2oz shoulder got stuck during delivery I told them this one feels bigger and begged for a ultrasound but they just kep repeating studies show measuring with the tape is just accurate and refused to do one. Well I had him at 38 weeks and he was 10lbs 4oz and he got stuck the nurse had to jump up on the table and push on my stomach to get him out.

nonmember avatar sarah

I was told "late pre-term" was 34-36 weeks when I delivered at 35 weeks. I was also told full term was 37 weeks to 42 weeks.

Claud... ClaudiaLynn

I agree with the article. Every lady should discuss everything with your doc and have a birth plan...but as the article says have a backup. I had toxemia and had to have an emergency induction, but because I put only emergency c section in my plan, my doc worked with me and I delivered a healthy boy in six hours. I did have an episiotomy, but only to avoid a c section, which would have required worse healing. My advice too all ladies, be informed, ask questions, plan!

nonmember avatar Michelle

I also think you need to check your facts on what is considered full-term...AND I disagree with a) early induction and b) early epidurals. I had both, by MY choice and recommendation of my OB/GYN. While I agree the early induction is NOT for everyone, please don't present it as overused and medically unnecessary. Actually, many OB's won't even do them! I did mine because I was already 80% effaced and was at 39 weeks. I also had a husband who travels constantly for work and I wanted him there. My daughter was 8# 4oz!!! Childbirth is such a private and personal decision and shouldn't be judged by ANYONE.

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