When it’s time to deliver your baby, you’ll want the most current information dictating how your OB-GYN or midwife handles your birth.
Most everyone agrees that evidence-based medicine, or practices shown in high-quality studies to be best for moms and babies, should rule in labor and delivery rooms.
However, sometimes policies to prevent lawsuits or a medical professional’s personal experience, or simply old habits, reign supreme—and the most current procedures aren’t put into practice.
“Women have a right to accurate information on risks, benefits and alternatives before any procedure is performed,” explains Knoxville, Tenn.-based nurse-midwife Jill Alliman, C.N.M., chairwoman of the legislative committee of the American Association of Birth Centers. “It’s all about women having informed consent.” The more you know, the more comfortable you’ll be with decisions made on delivery day, so keep reading for the latest research on four frequent childbirth scenarios.
Eating and Drinking in Labor
Old thinking: Laboring women were allowed ice chips only. If a woman has to undergo general anesthesia in an emergency Cesarean section and has a full stomach, there is a slight risk that she could vomit and the contents could be drawn into the lungs. This is a potentially fatal complication.
New thinking: In 2009, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists relaxed its drinking restrictions. Women in labor are allowed to quench their thirst with water, pulp-free juice, sports drinks, soda, black coffee or clear tea.
Today, general anesthesia is rarely used in childbirth. If it is, clear liquids are much less of a risk than solids, says OB-GYN Joshua Copel, M.D., professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, and pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.
What to do now: Because the energy demands of labor are so great, the World Health Organization recommends that health care providers should not interfere in women’s eating and drinking during labor. Meanwhile, a 2012 review of research by The Cochrane Library concluded that women at low risk of needing anesthesia should be allowed to eat and drink as they wish. Before delivery day, be sure to discuss eating and drinking in labor with your health care provider.
Old thinking: C-section is the preferred delivery method for premature babies. The reason? Small, preterm babies are fragile and should not undergo the stress of a vaginal delivery.
New thinking: Vaginal delivery may be preferred. A recent study comparing the health of small-for- gestational age infants born between 25 weeks and 34 weeks found that those born vaginally had significantly lower rates of respiratory distress than those born via C-section. Otherwise, there were no significant differences in infant health.
What to do now: There are many factors to consider when deciding on the delivery mode of a premature infant. Sometimes, the mother or baby is in immediate risk, and an emergency C-section is needed. If you are facing an early delivery, ask your doctor to explain the benefits and risks of induction versus C-section.