The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated their guidelines for what makes a healthy birth. The new guidelines recognize the significance of both the mother’s and the baby’s emotional experience from conception to birth.
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The WHO calls for a higher standard of care for all women, emphasizing the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of both mother and child. Addressing the overuse of the drug Pitocin to speed labor, a cervical dilation rate slower than the previous benchmark of one centimeter per hour is now recognized as a normal progression. When interventions become medically necessary, doctors and birth attendants are expected to involve the woman in the decision-making process and make all efforts for the mother and baby to room in after birth.
The difference between the new and the former guidelines lies in intranatal care’s ultimate goal. In the past, getting the baby out was the target. If he were physically healthy in the end, no one really cared about what happened during the birth. New research shows that alternating nature’s plan, even when it is with good intentions, has detrimental effects. For example, after receiving Pitocin, a woman’s contractions become stronger and more painful. She’ll likely need an epidural. A newborn whose mother has received an epidural is born drowsy. This can interfere with breastfeeding and even lead to jaundice.
Birth professionals were once taught that their job was to ensure that the baby is born alive. We now know that there is more to a healthy birth. Perhaps this kind of attitude has something to do with the rates of postpartum depression, SIDS, or even the inability for some women to breastfeed. None of this has been studied enough to confirm, but we do know that babies and mothers thrive when they feel significant and are allowed to experience the most natural circumstances possible.