What’s a ‘Pushed Birth’?

A pushed birth is one that is induced, sped up, and/or heavily medicated for no good reason, and all too often concludes with surgery, invasive instruments, an episiotomy, or a bad vaginal tear — outcomes you don’t want. Decades of research show that the healthiest birth for you and your baby — and that means your partner, your family, and your community — is a normal, vaginal birth with minimal intervention and maximum support.

If you’re like most American women, though, labor support is not what you’re going to get. Look at the numbers: 4 in 10 women today are induced. 1 in 3 give birth by major surgery, the cesarean section. 1 in 3 vaginal birthers get an episiotomy — surgical scissors cutting your vagina. And most women will put their pelvic floors at risk by lying in a bed throughout labor and pushing the baby out while while flat on their back.

Why? Because most L&D wards aren’t following best practices. They’re strapping 95% of women in for labor with continuous electronic fetal monitoring. It sounds great, but it’s actually a practice that goes against the research evidence. Time and time again, studies have shown that the machine is no better at monitoring your baby than a human being with a stethoscope, meanwhile it increases the likelihood of surgery and other unwanted outcomes because it limits your ability to move, find comfort, and help labor progress.

Labor and Delivery wards also put you on the clock, and more than half of you will be given the synthetic hormone Pitocin to speed things up. You’ll probably also have your water bag artificially broken. Once that happens, you’re on deadline: most OBs won’t allow you to labor more than 12 hours after your water has been broken. If you’re not pushing out that baby, you’re going to be pushed into the OR for a cesarean.

Or maybe you’re being told to induce labor because…your baby “looks big” on the ultrasound, or the fluid “looks low,” or it’s past your due date, or your doctor is going on vacation and you want her to deliver your baby, or you’re tired of being pregnant and, well, why not? There are compelling reasons to wait. An induced labor is not a normal, “physiological” labor. It’s more painful, it requires that you stay in bed hooked up to various tubes and machines, and it ups your chance of a C-section by two to three times. Furthermore, none of these reasons is medically valid.

Even if you’re able to go into labor on your own and progress fast enough, you’re probably going to push lying in a bed, and you’ll be told when to push, how long to push, and how hard to push. It’s a hold-your-breath-bear-down-and-count-to-ten kind of thing, and research has shown this practice to be damaging to your pelvic region and more likely to result in tearing as the baby emerges. Hello painful recovery, painful sex, and incontinence.

It sounds pretty grim, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Now read Can I Avoid It?