Labor at Home or in the Hospital?

Providers now define active labor as six centimeters cervical dilation and encourage low risk women to labor at home during early labor.  This is because when women are admitted to the hospital when their cervix is only three or four centimeters dilated there is a greater likelihood of obstetric interventions, such as Pitocin augmentation (artificial oxytocin) and cesarean surgery.  In a recent study of 22,000 women pregnant with their first baby, two-thirds arrived at the hospital in early labor.  Women who were admitted before active labor were more likely to have their membranes artificially ruptured, to receive I. V. Pitocin, to develop fever, require a blood transfusion, and request an epidural.  Cesarean surgery was almost three times more likely among women admitted to the hospital in early labor.  The most common reason was because the provider judged that labor was “too slow”, even though cervical dilation was progressing normally.  What about the women who stayed home until they were in active labor?  93% had normal vaginal deliveries.  A normal, healthy woman needs coping skills to enable her to relax and work with her contractions at home during early labor.  What should you expect for the time it takes for your cervix to dilate from one to six centimeters?  Another new study found that it took from 1-13 hours (average 3 hours) for the cervix of normal first-time moms to dilate from three to four centimeters and 1-7 hours (average 2 hours) for dilation from four to five centimeters!  So if you are a healthy, low risk pregnant woman, there is no need to rush to the hospital!  Be patient.  Grab your partner, dog, or a friend and go for a walk.  Make homemade bread.  How about a movie marathon?  Most important: practice your breathing and relaxation skills.

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