We’ve seen it in the movies and on TV: the woman in labour, being directed to push as hard as she can to get that baby out. Many of us can probably even remember being told to push when we were giving birth. I certainly can.
But medical professionals around the world are now accepting that coaching women to push during labour is not actually a good idea.
In fact, it’s been linked to an increase in severe perineal tearing, which can cause incontinence and nerve problems.
In 2013/2014, almost 14,000 UK women suffered severe perineal tearing. It was a dramatic rise in numbers that got obstetricians and midwives looking for a different approach.
A new midwife-led program is now set to be rolled out across the UK. The program, developed by the Medway Foundation Trust, gets women to slow down during delivery. They’re told to breathe through their contractions, rather than push.
Listen: Mum of four Bec Judd talks pelvic floors on the Hello, Bump podcast. (Post continues after audio.)
Women are encouraged to try different positions, including standing, leaning or getting on their knees. Midwives are advised not to pull the baby out by the shoulders but to support the baby’s weight, reducing pressure on the perineum.
The program has been hugely successful. It’s managed to cut the rate of traumatic tearing from seven per cent of new mums to just one per cent.
This isn’t exactly news to midwives in Australia. Rachel Smith, a spokesperson for the Australian College of Midwives, says they’ve been trying to avoid “coached” pushing for a long time.