Nothemba Simelela, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Family, Women, Children and Adolescents, stated this while issuing new guidelines on global care standards throughout labour and immediately after childbirth.
The WHO official said the new guidelines aimed at reducing the use of needless and potentially harmful routine clinical and medical interventions.
Simelela said: “We want women to give birth in a safe environment with skilled birth attendants in well-equipped facilities.
“However, the increasing medicalisation of normal childbirth processes are undermining a woman’s own capability to give birth and negatively impacting her birth experience”.
Worldwide, an estimated 140 million births take place every year and most of these occur without complications for women and their babies.
However, according to WHO, over the past 20 years, health practitioners have increased the use of interventions that were previously only used to avoid risks or treat complications, such as oxytocin infusion to speed up labour or caesarean sections.
Studies show that a substantial proportion of healthy pregnant women undergo at least one clinical intervention during labour and birth.
“If labour is progressing normally, and the woman and her baby are in good condition, they do not need to receive additional interventions to accelerate labour,” Simelela added.
Based on 56 evidence-based recommendations, the new guidelines include having a companion of choice during labour and childbirth.
It also include ensuring respectful care and good communication between women and health providers and maintaining privacy and confidentiality.
It further allowed women to make decisions about their pain management, labour and birth positions and natural urge to push, among others.
It recognised that every labour and childbirth is unique and that the duration of the active first stage of labour varies from one woman to another.
The UN agency also noted that with more women giving birth in health facilities with skilled health professionals and timely referrals, they deserved better quality of care.
Estimates show that about 830 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications around the world every day – the majority of which can be prevented with high-quality care.
“Achieving the best possible physical, emotional, and psychological outcomes for the woman and her baby requires a model of care in which health systems empower all women to access care that focuses on the mother and child,” WHO underscored.