January 14, 2015 — High rates of interventions during maternity care can be detrimental to the health and safety of women and their infants, but many U.S. hospitals continue to overtreat such patients, according to a new report by Childbirth Connection, a program of the National Partnership for Women & Families, the New York Times' "Motherlode" reports.
The report, based on a synthesis of research, found, "If overtreatment is defined as instances in which an individual may have fared as well or better with less or perhaps no intervention then modern obstetric care has landed in a deep quagmire. Navigating out of that territory will be challenging."
Report author Sarah Buckley provided several recommendations for hospitals, based on the approach that the hormonal processes at work during childbirth are best left undisrupted in most cases. The report found that these processes, which previously were not fully understood, help prepare the pregnant woman and her fetus for labor and birth.
Specifically, the report recommends that health care providers wait for labor to start on its own, advise women who labor at home while in early labor and be patient with women who are in labor in their facilities, instead of providing interventions to speed the process along. In addition, the report recommends that women "stay calm and relaxed" and practice patience as well.
Childbirth Connection Programs Director Carol Sakala said, "It's important for both clinicians and women to understand that common interventions, that we have come to view quite casually, are actually quite consequential."
She said that while "[o]ur current high rates of intervention are not serving women well ... the community is really moving in the right direction. Professional societies are breaking with the past."
For example, Sakala noted that professional societies are publicly discussing not allowing elective cesarean sections or inductions, as well as issues like the overuse of c-sections and fetal monitoring.
She added, "We are hopeful that the timing of this report will support that change" (Dell'Antonia, "Motherlode," New York Times, 1/13).