Whether you’re a new mom or a seasoned pro, a low-risk pregnancy can be defined as one where there is no need for or benefit from medical intervention. Most pregnancies (92 to 94 percent) are considered low-risk. Mom and baby are healthy and there’s nothing to indicate that labor and delivery won’t go smoothly. In these situations, a low-intervention labor and delivery can be a wonderful option either in a hospital or a birth center.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recently released updated recommendations on interventions during labor and delivery for low-risk pregnancies. These suggestions indicate that limited medical intervention methods produce the best outcomes for low-risk pregnancies. The aim is to create more satisfactory birth experiences for women by giving them more control and options during labor and delivery. Here are some of the ACOG’s key recommendations.
- Women can labor at home as long as mom and baby are in stable condition with frequent contact and support. You don’t have to rush to the birth center or hospital as soon as you start feeling contractions. You’re likely to be much more comfortable at home, where you have all of your favorite distractions. Baths, massages and other natural coping measures can all help during early labor at home.
- You can (and should!) stay hydrated during labor. It’s perfectly safe to drink (and eat) during labor. It’s hard work, after all; you’re going to need that water and fuel!
- One-to-one emotional support is crucial. The ACOG found that women with continuous labor support had a better experience. A support partner during labor and delivery can help you stay calm and focused. This can be anyone you have a trusting relationship with, from your best friend to your spouse to a hired doula.
- If your water breaks before you go into labor, there’s no need to panic. Your midwife should let you know of any precautions, but generally speaking, unless you are Group B Strep positive and need antibiotics during labor, there’s no need to worry or rush to the birth center or hospital.
- It’s not necessary to have your water broken during a normal, safe labor. Unless your midwife deems it is medically needed in your unique situation, there’s no reason to have your water broken. You shouldn’t feel pressured if you feel you need more time.
- Constant fetal monitoring isn’t necessary. Midwives using hand-held Doppler monitors allow you to walk around and stretch while you’re in labor. The ACOG is encouraging labor and delivery wards to use this monitoring method more frequently.
- You shouldn’t have to labor or give birth in any specific position. You don’t have to be on your back or in the water for the best birth experience. Listen to your body’s needs and move into the most comfortable positions according to how you feel in that moment. If you’re giving birth at a birth center, your midwife can help you find positions to keep things moving.
- Little intervention is needed during transition and delivery for low-risk pregnancies. When you’re nearing the end of labor and almost ready to push, the only recommended intervention is intermittent monitoring of your baby’s heartbeat. Trust in your body’s ability to handle the rest.
- There’s no rush to push. The ACOG recommends that when women move into active labor, they can rest for up to two hours if they need to, or until they naturally feel the need to push. Don’t feel pressured to start pushing if your body isn’t telling you to yet.
- There’s no specific breathing technique you have to follow. You should use a breathing pattern that opens your airways and brings you the most strength and serenity during labor and delivery. If your unique method doesn’t follow a set guidance or practice, that’s perfectly fine.
The advantage of having more control and autonomy over your body and labor and delivery can’t be overstated. Studies have shown that women utilizing low-intervention and natural pain coping methods cope better during labor and delivery and are less likely to have C-sections. Knowing that you have options will empower you to make the best decisions for yourself and your baby.
If you’re considering a low-intervention labor and delivery or have any questions about common practices and procedures, our midwives are here to listen to you openly and answer you honestly. At Baby+Company, we treat the needs of every mother and pregnancy with focused, individualized care.