FILE PHOTO: A doctor examines a new born baby at the hospital in Gyula, Hungary, March 23, 2016. REUTERSFILE PHOTO: A doctor examines a new born baby at the hospital in Gyula, Hungary.

Women Should Be Given More Time To Give Birth, Make Choices: WHO

Women in labor should be given more time to give birth and have fewer medical interventions, while taking part more in decision-making, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

Among 26 new recommendations, it dismissed a traditional benchmark in labor wards worldwide for the dilation of a woman’s cervix at the rate of 1 centimeter for every hour, saying it was “unrealistic” and often led to excessive caesarean sections.

“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 labor is becoming very rampant in several areas of the world,” he told a briefing.He was referring to the synthesized form of a natural hormone routinely infused intravenously to women to cause contractions, expediting birth to avoid complications.

In the 1950s, American obstetrician Emanuel Friedman studied the progression of labor and laid down a guideline that a woman’s cervix should dilate at the rate of 1 cm for every hour in the initial stage.

But research in the previous 15 years, including a WHO study of 10,000 women in Nigeria and Uganda, has shown the rate can be slower without endangering the health of a woman or child, Oladapo said.

“It’s not a good benchmark, it’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. We feel that everyone is is one of a kind, and a few women can go slower than that and still have a normal vaginal birth.”

A better threshold is 5 cm of widening during the initial 12 hours for a new mother and 10 hours in subsequent labors, WHO said. A woman’s vital signs and baby’s heartbeat should be monitored closely throughout...