Note: Please consult your doctor or healthcare professional to discuss your options before making any decisions concerning childbirth.
A new study published in the October 9th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that early pushing during childbirth is equally as safe for most women and babies as pushing later.
The trial study followed a fairly large group of 2,400 first-time moms. When it came time to give birth, participants were randomly selected to start pushing early, or to delay pushing for one hour. The study found that the timing of pushing had no effect on the odds of a "normal" vaginal delivery, nor did the delay harm the baby. Interestingly, delayed pushing also did not affect the need for delivery aids such as forceps or a vacuum - nor did it increase the need for a cesarean delivery.
Interestingly, the study also found that those women who did push early were 40 per cent less likely to experience significant bleeding, and 30 per cent less likely to develop an infection postpartum.
Lead researcher Dr. Alison Cahill, chief of maternal-fetal medicine of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said that there is an understanding that even in the absence of pushing, the uterus still works quite hard to help get the baby out.
"The theory behind delayed pushing is that while they delay, the uterus continues to contract and perhaps do some of the work to deliver the baby," she said. "Part of the theory is that it would increase the chances they would successfully have a vaginal delivery."
Although early pushing was found not to increase the chances for a successful vaginal delivery, it also didn't increase the need for a c-section (despite popular belief), and was even associated with lower odds of hemorrhage and infection.
This is good news. In the last several decades in United States as well as many other countries in the developed world, there has been a dramatic increase in the rate of c-sections. According to Dr. Dana Gossett, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, c-sections are "bad for mothers", and may even be bad for babies.
"In the United States, we are trying to find ways to decrease the rate of cesarean section, which had dramatically increased over the past 50 years," she said. She added that this study clearly demonstrates the benefits of early pushing.
"Labor and pushing have risks for mom and baby, so they should not be unnecessarily prolonged, but we should focus on things that help reduce the rate of c-sections," she said.