• When to Push During Labor: The Sooner the Better, Study Suggests

    Delayed pushing may even prolong labor and increase health risks for mom and baby.
    by Rachel Perez .
When to Push During Labor: The Sooner the Better, Study Suggests
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  • One of the most common questions mamas-to-be ask fellow mom friends is: "When is it time to push my baby out?" You want to be prepared and ready, of course. First-time preggos also worry that the pain or pushing too early (or too late) will cause them to undergo a C-section.

    Doctors usually delay pushing in labor until a pregnant woman's cervix is already fully dilated at 10 centimeters. At this stage, which typically lasts somewhere between two minutes to two hours or more, a pregnant woman is instructed to push (like how you would poo) whenever she feels an intense urge to push.

    The theory behind delayed pushing is to let the uterus contract to encourage spontaneous delivery. It is believed to help make the delivery more manageable for moms and increase their chances of having a successful vaginal birth.

    A new study, however, now suggests it is okay to try to push sooner rather than later or as soon as the cervix is fully dilated. It's the first large-scale study that shows that it can be safe, and it showed that the timing of pushing has no effect on whether women deliver vaginally or by C-section.

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    Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis analyzed data from more than 2,400 first-time moms. They all went into labor at their 37th week of pregnancy and received epidural to manage labor pain. The women were grouped randomly to either push early or delay pushing by an hour.

    The study, published in the Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA), indicated that pushing has nothing to do with pregnant women eventually needing C-section births. It showed that both women who were allowed to push early and those who waited an hour had about an 85-percent success rate for vaginal deliveries.

    Pushing early may offer benefits for moms and babies. For starters, preggos who pushed early were 40% less likely to have significant bleeding and 30% less likely to develop an infection compared to women who pushed after waiting an hour. It may also help shorten labor by half an hour! Labor is intense in itself, and no preggo wants to go through it longer than necessary.

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    The little ones may benefit from early pushing, too. Babies of moms who pushed early also had a lower risk of developing sepsis, a life-threatening complication of an infection.

    Now, again, pushing early here means when the cervix is fully dilated. Your doctor will know best how to guide you during labor. 

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    Women who receive pain medication early in labor, however, may not be able to feel the natural urge to push. It's up to the doctors to guide them and tell them when to push.

    "First-time moms with regional anesthesia should not delay pushing with the intent that they will increase the chance they will have a vaginal delivery," lead researcher Dr. Alison Cahill, chief of maternal-fetal medicine of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told HealthDay. She added that delayed pushing is "associated with longer labor time and higher health risks to mothers and babies."

    Each pregnancy is unique as each birth will also different. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have revised guidelines to encourage letting each labor and childbirth progress as naturally as possible, without unnecessary interventions.

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