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Are We Pushing Wrong?

From A WOMAN IN RESIDENCE: A doctor’s personal and professional battles against an insensitive medical system. Michelle Harrison, M.D.


“I begin to think that the full dilation of the cervix is meaningless, that we may be telling women to push long before they should and thus wearing them out. It is true that the cervix dilates and then the baby comes out, but maybe it’s an entire process...we study how it happens and then we try to make it happen that way, but the whole framework may be wrong. Maybe even after some people dilate, there are still hours to go before the delivery. We set a limit of one or two hours of full cervical dilation and we say she must deliver within that time we have established. We make women push all that time, even when their bodies do not tell them to push. We make them push until they are exhausted and then we tell them we have to take over because they are not strong enough to push out their babies.  The second stage of labor is the time after full dilation until the delivery of the baby. It is an arbitrary distinction. It is a construct. It may not mean that a woman can now push out her baby. Maybe pushing is all wrong.”

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