Overused & Underused Procedures

My previous post about a good experience and a healthy baby as well as reading a relevant section in the wonderful new Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy & Birth book I’m reviewing made me want to post about this topic. There are a multitude of common procedures that are overused in hospitals and that when used routinely actually harm mothers and babies. I also thought about the multitude of evidence based, helpful procedures that are underused in many birth environments despite research indicating that they contribute to better outcomes for both mother and baby. (The use of the terms “overused” and “underused” and the examples below are taken from the OBOS book.)

Overused Procedures–these techniques are often used routinely (instead of appropriately based on true level of need in which case they can be truly helpful and sometimes even save lives) despite clear evidence that overuse is harmful:

  • Induction of labor
  • Episiotomy
  • Epidurals
  • Cesarean sections

Underused Procedures that have been shown to improve birth outcomes as well as to improve women’s satisfaction with their birth experiences include:

  • Continuous one-on-one support from a skilled caregiver during labor (a doula is a professional labor support provider who offers this one-to-one support).
  • Changing positions during labor (especially positions using gravity).
  • Laboring out of bed.
  • Walking during labor.
  • Comfort measures such as water, massage, and birth balls.

To increase your likelihood of satisfaction with your birth experience and of having a normal birth as well as a healthy mother and baby, choose a birth setting and care provider that supports and USES these underused procedures and only rarely, and appropriately, uses the overused procedures listed above.

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