WHO issues new guidelines allowing women more time to give birth without intervention

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Women aren’t being given enough to give birth, warns the World Health Organisation (WHO).

New childbirth guidelines have recently been issued by WHO, removing the emphasis on a timescale and aiming to reduce the use of medical interventions.

Among the 26 new recommendations, it rejects the traditional benchmark in labour that a woman’s cervix should dilate at a rate of one centimetre per hour.

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WHO issues new guidelines allowing women more time to give birth without intervention

According to WHO, over the past 20 years, doctors, midwives and obstetricians have increased the use of interventions that were previously only used to avoid risks or treat complications.

They believe if labour is progressing normally, and the woman and her baby are in good health, they do not need to receive additional interventions to accelerate labour.

What has been happening over the last two decades is that we are having more and more interventions being applied unnecessarily to women,” says 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 labour is becoming very rampant in several areas of the world.”

Research of 10,000 women in Nigeria and Uganda has shown over the past 15 years that the dilation rate can be slower without endangering the health of mum and baby.


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

“We want a situation where women have an informed choice, and they are involved in decision-making.”

Dr. Oladapo also says that an episiotomy (a cut to the woman genital region to to widen the birth canal, is not recommended routinely, as it “does more harm than good.”

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