Laboring with a child is unlike anything else you will ever experience—for many reasons. Among them is the distinct feeling of needing to push during contractions. But, for many years, medical experts have advised laboring mothers to resist the desire to push until the baby has fully dropped into position. Now, a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows early pushing may actually improve outcomes for mothers and babies. “First-time moms with regional anesthesia should not delay pushing with the intent that they will increase the chance they will have a vaginal delivery,” lead researcher Dr. Alison Cahill, chief of maternal-fetal medicine of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, tells HealthDay .
Cahill explains the popular belief was that early pushing (defined as pushing during the second stage of labor) increases the likelihood the mom will require a Cesarean birth. However, the study of 2,400 first-time mothers found there was no difference in eventual C-section rates between women who pushed early or waited an hour . The women who did push early, however, were 40% less likely to experience significant bleeding and 30% less likely to develop an infection. While they did actively push for an average of nine minutes longer than the group that delayed pushing, their overall labor time was reduced by an average 32 minutes. In addition to having comparable C-section rates to women who delayed pushing, there was no increase in the prevalence of forceps or a vacuum to deliver the babies of women who pushed early. Before now, it “wasn’t clear that [early pushing] was safe for mother or baby,”says Dr. Dana Gossett, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, and co-author of an editorial that accompanies the JAMA report. Now, for the first time, this study shows that early pushing is not only safe—but it’s even beneficial.