Research sheds light on ‘normal’ birth

By Hollie Ewers on 23 July 2018 Labour Postnatal Care Australia Maternity Services

A study of almost 6000 women in Australia reveals the factors promoting or inhibiting ‘normal’ births.

Women who gave birth over a four-month period in Queensland, Australia, were invited to complete a questionnaire about their preferences for and experiences of pregnancy, labour, birth, and postnatal care.

‘Normal’ birth was defined as an unassisted vaginal birth without induction of labour, epidural or general anaesthetic, forceps or episiotomy.

Only 28.7% of the women questioned experienced a ‘normal’ birth.

Research lead and associate professor Yvette Miller from the Queensland University of Technology said: ‘Our analysis found that those who had received GP shared care, standard public care, public midwifery continuity care or private midwifery care were all more likely to have a ‘normal’ birth than women in private obstetric care.’

The research also found that women had a higher chance of a ‘normal’ birth if they lived outside major cities, could move freely throughout labour, received continuity of care in labour and birth, did not have procedures to augment their labour (such as having their waters broken or an Oxytocin drip), did not have their baby continuously electronically monitored during labour, or gave birth not lying flat.

The researchers say their findings highlight several relevant modifiable factors including mobility, monitoring, and care provision during labour and birth, for increasing normal birth opportunity. 

Yvette said that research from Australia and several other countries indicated the majority of women report the desire for minimal medical intervention during birth. 

‘Rates of medical intervention in labour and birth have steadily increased in most middle- and high-income countries over the past few decades contrary to most women’s preferences,’ she added.

The researchers' analysis of 23 studies published from around the world found that only 13.8% of women expressed a preference for caesarean birth over vaginal birth.

‘Our other research has shown that many women in Queensland are not informed or not involved in decisions about the use of medical procedures that can affect their birth experience and outcomes,' Yvette said.

‘Women are especially uninformed about how the type of maternity care they choose early on in their pregnancy can affect their chances of having the type of labour and birth they want.’

The study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth is available here.