Stop rushing women in labour, caesarean sections are becoming very rampant - WHO
Women should be given more time to give birth, the World Health Organisation has said as it changes its advice, warning that too many are being pushed into caesarean sections.
Its experts said mothers-to-be were being subjected to too many medical interventions, and should have more say over how and whether they gave birth.
The new advice rejects previous suggestions about the speed of a normal labour, saying the idea that a cervix should dilate at 1cm per hour was “unrealistic” and led to too many women having needless caesareans.
"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.
"Things like caesarean sections, using a drug called oxytocin to speed up labour is becoming very rampant in several areas of the world," he told a briefing.
The drug is injected intravenously to women to cause contractions, and speed up birth.
Advice that a cervix should dilate at 1cm per hour in the early stages dates from the 1950s.
But research in the past 15 years has shown the rate can be slower without endangering the health of a woman or child, Dr Oladapo said.
"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,” said Dr OIadapo.
WHO said a better theshold is 5 cm of dilation during the first 12 hours for a new mother and 10 hours in subsequent labours. NHS advice suggests that investigations are only necessary if cervical dilation is less than 2 cm in 4 hours.