Giving Moms in Labor More Time to Push Might Cut the C-Section Rate by Half

pregnant female in surgical room hospital

How long should an expectant mom be "allowed" to push before medical intervention is required? Well, folks, it looks like experts have been taking a look at past recommendations and just might be changing up their tune. A new study shows the benefits additional time to labor, and how it can significantly reduce the likelihood of needing a C-section -- like by half.


Last year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a suggested guide on ways to safely prevent C-sections. In their recommendations, women who are first-time mothers would have two hours to push out their baby during the second stage of labor, and three hours if Mom-to-be opted for an epidural. Should an expectant mom pass her time, however, it's pretty common practice for a doctor to advocate for a C-section, or assisted delivery with the use of medical devices.

With a little more than 32 percent of US births being C-sections -- which just so happens to be double the rate that the World Health Organization advises -- there have been questions as to whether or not anything else can be done to lower these numbers.

Researchers at the Sidney Kimmel College of Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania decided to start doing a little digging -- and may have found a solution that will allow moms-to-be to live out their birth plans. Published in the March issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology is a study that reveals C-section rates drop when Mom has more time to push.

More from The Stir: 14 Questions to Ask About C-Sections (Even if You're Not Planning One)

Of the group of close to 80 pregnant women who opted for epidurals (researchers note there were no expectant moms who were a part of the study and didn't ask for medication to manage pain), moms-to-be were randomly selected to either receive the standard time to labor (remember, three hours for those with an epidural) or get an additional hour.

So, what were the results, you might ask?

Over 43 percent of women who had three hours to push during the second stage of labor ended up having a C-section, while only 19.5 percent had a Cesarean delivery when given four hours of time. (That's more than half!) Experts did not see anything in their analysis that would suggest granting Mom additional time to labor puts her or the baby's health in jeopardy. (Researchers did, however, point out their study was small and controlled, and thus would require more investigation for other areas of focus.)

What's also a noteworthy mention about this study is not just the findings, but also how many of today's medical guidelines still follow practices dating as far back as the 1800s.

Very interesting.

No one can contest the legitimacy of Cesarean deliveries. Without them, many expectant mothers would've never been able to hold their healthy babies -- or might have died themselves in the process of giving birth. That doesn't mean there's no room to look at women who might not have needed a C-section if they were given just a little more time to endure labor.

More from The Stir: A Love Letter to C-Section Moms (That Everyone Should Read)

Looking at this study made me think back to my first tango with the delivery room. My first son was nine days late, which made my already nervous doctor all the more anxious. (I had a healthy pregnancy and no cause for concerns.) Thankfully, little man was given the time he needed to come, resulting in a seven-hour labor (unmedicated). Seeing as my doctor was generally a woman full of angst (she didn't even let my husband cut the umbilical cord 'cause my son took a few seconds to cry), who knows if I would've been sent to the operating room if things didn't happen within a two-hour window.

Sometimes, your body goes on its own schedule -- and sometimes, you need medical intervention when you stall, to help prevent any dangerous complications. Every pregnancy is different and therefore can't be painted with the same brush.

I truly hope this opens up a discussion that can help future moms -- or at the very least provide some additional options.



Image via Oranzy/Shutterstock

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