Moms Are Pushed into Unnecessary C-Sections Because Doctors Rely on 'Unrealistic' Standards


Many laboring moms aren't given enough time for their bodies to progress before they're pushed into unnecessary medical interventions. Instead of being forced into C-sections because of unrealistic standards of how a mom should "progress," these women need more time and authority to make decisions while giving birth, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 


The WHO issued a new warning that women are being pressured into these unnecessary interventions simply because their bodies are expected to dilate according to an incorrect timeline. The agency said that the generally accepted timeframe for a woman's cervix to dilate is one centimeter per hour. However, the agency says this is not only "unrealistic" but is also causing a "rampant" increase in unneeded C-sections.

"What has been happening over the last two decades is that we are having more and more interventions being applied unnecessarily to women," said Dr. Olufemi Oladapo, a medical officer in WHO's department of reproductive health and research, according to Reuters. "Things like caesarean sections, using a drug called oxytocin to speed up labor is becoming very rampant in several areas of the world."

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An American obstetrician in the 1950s created the current guidelines for cervical dilation. This is why many women are routinely given oxytocin, which is a synthesized form of a natural hormone, to speed things up if their bodies aren't progressing at this rate.

Although this is intended to expedite birth in order to avoid complications, Oladapo said that based on research over the last 15 years, labor can actually progress more slowly without endangering mom or baby. "It's not a good benchmark, it's not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. We feel that everybody is unique, and some women can go slower than that and still have a normal vaginal birth," Oladapo said.

Instead, WHO advises the benchmark for first-time moms to be five centimeters during the first 12 hours as long as mom and baby's vital signs are stable. Oladapo said that laboring moms also need to have more power during childbirth and be allowed to decide for themselves which delivery position they prefer. 

"We want a situation where women have an informed choice, and they are involved in decision-making," he added. 

Many moms who have been through what they deem unnecessary C-sections completely agree that they just needed more time -- and they're sharing their stories on social media.

Break the silence

With the hashtag #BreaktheSilence, these moms hope to raise awareness and empower other women. 

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Break the silence

As some share stories of being forced into interventions and having their words or opinions ignored, they hope that doctors and moms learn from both the WHO guidelines as well as their experiences. 

"Many women want a natural birth and prefer to rely on their bodies to give birth to their baby without the aid of medical intervention," said Ian Askew, director of the WHO's department of reproductive health and research, according to the Daily Mail. "Even when a medical intervention is wanted or needed, the inclusion of women in making decisions about the care they receive is important to ensure that they meet their goal of a positive childbirth experience."

Break the silence

Dr. Princess Nothemba Simelela, WHO assistant director-general for women and children, also reinforced the idea that if mom and baby are stable, they don't need additional interventions to accelerate labor. "The increasing medicalization of normal childbirth processes are undermining a woman’s own capability to give birth and negatively impacting her birth experience," she said, according to the Daily Mail.

As one woman bluntly put it on social media, "I am birthing a baby, not baking a cake. You can't expect me to be done by a certain time. I didn't 'fail to progress.' The hospital did."

Break the silence

Hopefully doctors who think that slow progress alone indicates the need for immediate medical intervention will take these new guidelines into account: Just because you think she's "taking too long" doesn't mean that she actually is. 

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