24h-payday

Do We Need to Turn Up the Volume on Lamaze’s Healthy Birth Practices? What The Listening to Mothers III Survey Tells Us.

Childbirth Connection’s Listening to Mothers Initiative just released the Listening to Mothers III (LTMIII) results late last week.  For the third time in the past 11 years, this organization has gone out and queried women on a variety of topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum and breastfeeding.  They have questioned thousands of women to accurately assess how the actual experiences hold up against what we know to be best practice and evidence based maternity care. I have relied on the past two survey results frequently during my professional career in maternal health and am thrilled to have the new survey results now available.

I thought it would be interesting to run some of the LTMIII results through the filter of Lamaze International’s Healthy Birth Practices.  The Healthy Birth Practices were most recently updated by Lamaze in 2009, and consist of six simple, evidence based practices that greatly contribute to keeping birth safe and healthy for mothers and babies. Each easy to remember practice has its own short video that parents can watch that talks about that specific care practice and safe alternatives.  Additionally, each Healthy Birth Practice has an accompanying Practice Paper with all the citations for the peer-reviewed, gold standard research that supports that particular practice.

Some useful links and information upfront

Listening to Mothers I

Listening to Mothers II

New!  Listening to Mothers III

Survey Questionnaire 

Major Study Findings

Interesting facts before we get started

While the LTMIII survey only looked at 2400 women,  please be aware that one percentage point change in results would represent approximately 40,000 mother/baby pairs, based on a US birth rate of around 4 million births a year.

35% of women had not intended to be pregnant at the time of this pregnancy, including 5% who stated that they had never intended to become pregnant at all.

52% of those planning to get pregnant did have a preconception meeting with a health care provider, (which could be viewed as a wonderful time to determine if this health care provider might be a good match for their maternity care needs.)

85% of women based their maternity care provider on insurance requirements or restrictions.

78% of women worked with an obstetrician (this has dropped over the course of the three studies.)

9% of women worked with a family practice doctor

8% of women worked with a midwife who practiced in a hospital, as one of the requirements of the study was that the mother was having a hospital birth.

The average length of time spent actually in a prenatal appointment, with health care provider or their nurse was 32 minutes.  (OB: 31 min, Family Practice/MW 35 min.) I was pleasantly surprised that it was this long, I expected less.

Over the course of the three studies, the cesarean rate of study participants went up, (24% to 31%), the VBAC rate went down and labor augmentation was cut in half from 53% to 26%.  More women used nitrous oxide for pain relief during their labor in the most recent study (6%, up from 2% in the first study)

30% of the women chose not to ask a question that they wanted answered at least once during their prenatal appointments.

Overall, women were unable to make choices in line with the Healthy Birth Practices, and did not know that deviating from these practices was not evidence based and resulted in increased interventions.

Let’s see how things stack up

Healthy Birth Practice 1: Let Labor Begin on Its Own

http://flic.kr/p/C21Dk

Research shows that in the absence of medical issues, mothers, babies and labors do best when labor starts spontaneously on its own. The final few weeks of pregnancy are vital for the putting the “finishing touches” on baby and helping to make the transition to life on the outside as smooth as possible.

41% of all women surveyed attempted a medical (involved a care provider) induction and of those induced, 74% were successful, (the woman went into labor) for an overall medically induced labor rate of 31%

Reasons why women were induced

  • 44% were full term
  • 19% wanted to get the pregnancy over
  • 11% wanted to control the timing of birth
  • 16% were induced for a large baby (note: the average weight of these babies induced for suspected macrosomia was 7 lbs 15 ounces.)
  • 18% were induced for being “overdue” (note: the average gestational age of those babies induced for being overdue was 39.9 weeks)
  • 18% were induced for a maternal health problem

Interestingly, 26% of women had their due date changed toward the end of their pregnancy; 66% of those were given an earlier due date and 34% were given a later one.

68% of women had a late third trimester ultrasound to estimate fetal weight

Healthy Birth Practice 2: Walk, Move Around and Change Positions in Labor

http://flic.kr/p/6PqM3M

Women with the ability to move and change positions are able to use this movement to help cope with the pain of labor.  Access to water in the form of a shower or tub can be a valuable coping technique.  Having access to intermittent fetal monitoring or telemetry movements can facilitate movement and promote labor progress for many women.

Only 43% of women walked around after being admitted to the hospital in labor

40% of women used position changes and movement for non-pharmacological pain relief

Healthy Birth Practice 3: Bring a Loved One, Friend or Doula for Continuous Support

Many women will thrive in labor if surrounded by a caring, supportive birth team.  Adding a skilled birth doula to the team has been shown in many studies to improve the outcome of birth and reduce interventions and cesareans.  While more and more birthing women are aware of a doula, many are still not having one in attendance at their birth.

99% of mothers had at least one support person present, (most often this was a partner, then a family member or friend)

6% women used a doula

75% of mothers were aware of what a doula does and of those 75% who knew, 27% would have liked a doula supporting them at their birth.

Healthy Birth Practice 4: Avoid Interventions That are Not Medically Necessary 

http://flic.kr/p/4v3Zeh

Although research shows that routine and unnecessary interference in the natural process of labor and birth is not likely to be beneficial—and may indeed be harmful—most U.S. births today are intervention-intensive.

98% of the women had at least one ultrasound during pregnancy and 70% had three or more over the course of their pregnancy

68% of women had a late third trimester ultrasound to estimate fetal weight.

83% of women had some type of pain medication

67% had an epidural or spinal, and 92% of those who did reported this to be “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful.”

62% of women surveyed had an IV during labor

51% of women had one or more vaginal exams in labor. (I was surprised at this, I would have suspected higher)

47% had bladder (Foley) catheters

31% of women had a labor augmented with pitocin

50% of birthing women had their labor either induced or augmented with pitocin

20% had their membranes ruptured artificially (AROM)  after labor began

36% of women had their labor started or augmented by AROM

1% of women requested and had a maternal request cesarean for non-medical reasons

40% of women drank fluids during their labor

21% of the women ate during labor

85% of women birthing vaginally did so without forceps or vacuum

87% of women responding had at least one of the five big interventions (attempted labor induction, epidural, pitocin augmentation, assisted delivery with vacuum or forceps or cesarean.

60% of the women had at least two of the above five interventions listed above

Healthy Birth Practice 5: Avoid Giving Birth on Your Back and Follow Your Body’s Urges to Push

http://flic.kr/p/p3jx

Women push most effectively when permitted to push in the positions that feel best for them.  Allowing the baby to “labor down” even after reaching full dilation until moms feel the urge to push can help women to push a baby out quicker and under their own steam.  Pushing in positions that allow the pelvis to open as much as possible and making space by getting the sacrum out of the way can help promote descent during pushing.

68% of women surveyed birthed on their backs

23% birthed in a semi-sitting position

8% gave birth in a position off their back, either side-lying, squat or hands & knees

Healthy Birth Practice 6: Keep Mother and Baby Together; Its Best for Mother, Baby and Breastfeeding

Experts now recommend that right after birth, a healthy newborn should be placed skin-to-skin on the mother’s abdomen or chest and should be dried and covered with warm blankets. Any care that needs to be done immediately after birth can be done with your baby skin-to-skin on your chest.  This early time together promotes breastfeeding, helps stabilize the newborn’s temperature and blood sugar and also offers a unique chance for high levels of natural oxytocin that promote bonding and help with immediate postpartum bleeding.

47% of mothers responding had their baby in their arms within the first hour

40% of mother-baby pairs were not skin to skin when they were first held

33% of all babies were with hospital staff the first hour

60% of mother-baby pairs roomed in together

18% of babies spent time in the NICU

25% of babies spent their days with mom and their nights in the nursery

49% of mothers who stated that they intended to exclusively breastfeed were given formula samples or offers.

29% of newborns were supplemented with water or formula during the hospital stay

Summary

After reading through the LTMIII report, I found myself discouraged by the current results.  It was clear that women were making choices and/or being informed by their care providers to choose practices that have long been known to create a cascade of interventions, do not improve outcomes for mothers or babies and are not evidence based.  For the majority of the women who responded to this survey, the Healthy Care Practices are still a pipe dream and not a reality in their hospitals and with their current providers.  I know change comes slowly, and it can take years for protocols to catch up with the evidence but frankly, after reading the summary of how things did or did not change over the course of the three studies I was still shocked.

Have you had a chance to go through the study yet?  What were your thoughts?  Anything surprise you?  Can you share a bright point that you noticed?

Join us later this week as I examine what the LTMIII survey had to say about childbirth education and how women are receiving pregnancy and birth information and from where.

 

 

 

 

Breastfeeding, Cesarean Birth, Childbirth Education, Doula Care, Epidural Analgesia, Evidence Based Medicine, Healthy Birth Practices, Healthy Care Practices, Lamaze International, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Medical Interventions, Midwifery, New Research, Newborns, News about Pregnancy, Research, Transforming Maternity Care, Uncategorized , , , , , ,

  1. May 14th, 2013 at 15:50 | #1

    Thank you Sharon,
    My response is about page 22, and not related to you, or your comments regarding LTMIII. I wonder about the opportunity missed and lost on page 22:

    “44% of women reported regular feelings of depression in the two weeks prior to the survey had not consulted a professional since giving birth.” (p.22)

    Using validated tool, PHQ-2 3in 10 mothers reported “feeling down, depressed or hopeless” (31%); 32% had “little interest or pleasure in doing things” (symptom of depression)Of these, 6% felt this way nearly every day.

    The healthy care practices don’t address mental health. This would be an amazing opportunity and evidence based research, for Lamaze and other organizations to include mental health into their practices, position papers, and policies. Unfortunately, I said that about LTMII. :(

  2. avatar
    Ruth
    May 16th, 2013 at 16:33 | #2

    @Walker Karraa Insightful observation! A reminder of this huge disconnect in allopathic medicine that each specialist only sees and cares about their own specialty ,not the whole women. We are only body parts to care for.

  3. March 5th, 2014 at 11:30 | #3

    I have to wonder…what happened to the women whose induction was not successful? My guess is that they didn’t just go home and try again another day…my guess is that they went to the OR.

    Also, regarding the 23% who were “semi-sitting” for birth…the design of the standard birthing bed does not really allow for a true semi-sitting posture. The design of the bed results in a mother who is flat from her bottom to about half way up her rib cage–at which point she curls upward. This restricts her ability to fully inflate her lungs, thus combining all the “joys” of the “flat on her back” position with a decreased ability to breath. While I’m sure that some women truly were semi-sitting (those birthing in a tub, or those who did not break down the bed and have the mom move her bottom to the broken down edge), my guess is that most truly birthed “on their back.”

  4. March 6th, 2014 at 15:24 | #4

    @Walker Karraa
    I whole heartedly agree with you Karra about postpartum health. It is of huge importance and needs to be addressed. Emotional health will impact attachment, mothering and breastfeeding.

  5. March 6th, 2014 at 15:30 | #5

    @Knitted in the Womb
    My observations of the hospital “semi-sitting” position actually immobilizes the pelvis. The mother is sitting on her coccyx and does not allow it to move back.
    Real squatting or side lying positions (if the mom is in bed) offer the best chance of pelvic mobility and, as you state, oxygenation.

  1. No trackbacks yet.