Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 2014 birth rates in the U.S. were up by one percent last year from the year before — the first increase in seven years.
Teen births continue to decline, but women in their 30s and 40s still are having more children, fueling last year’s birth rate growth. The rate of unmarried women having children declined by one percent.
Childbirth practices have changed a lot over the years. As scientific knowledge expands, methods evolve — and recently a few trends have emerged as a result.
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While the following may not be as outlandish as some other practices, they’re on the rise and worth knowing about.
This practice involves giving newborns a swab of their mother’s birth fluid after they have been born by Caesarean section (it’s also known as “vaginal seeding”). A 2010 study suggests it boosts beneficial gut microbes for immunity and may reduce the risk of such conditions as asthma, food allergies and hay fever. Others insist there’s no evidence it is beneficial, and point out that newborns could instead develop severe infections from exposure to potentially harmful pathogens.
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“Parents and health professionals should also remember that other events in early life, such as breast-feeding and antibiotic exposure, have a powerful effect on the developing microbiota,” wrote the authors of a 2016 editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Dr. Aubrey Cunnington of the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London and lead author of the BMJ article said demand for the practice is up in the U.K. “At the moment we’re a long way from having the evidence base to recommend this practice. There is simply no evidence to suggest it has benefits — and it may carry potential risks,” she said in a statement.
Dr. Leonardo Pereira, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, told CNN the practice has become more common in the U.S. over the past 5 to 10 years. A study is underway at the New York University School of Medicine to further examine the practice.
2.) Doulas and Midwives
These practitioners encourage women to move around and try different positions to assist in labor — something women may not experience otherwise.
“There is definitely a big growth in having a doula, a non-medical support person, to [help] parents through labor,” Ruth Castillo, a doula from San Antonio, told LifeZette.
“Women are requesting more doulas so they have more control in the birthing room … whether that’s at home, in a birthing center or in a hospital setting,” added Shivani Gupta, author of “The Conscious Pregnancy.” “A doula is an excellent way for a woman to get the care and support she needs,” Gupta told LifeZette.
Jacqui Blue, who made the documentary “Beautiful Births,” believes the increasing use of doulas shows that women are going back to more natural methods.
Speaking of more natural methods — you may think home births are only something you see on television (think “19 Kids and Counting”), but it, too, is a growing trend. A 2013 report published in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health found women are choosing midwife-led, out-of-hospital births at an increasing rate in the U.S.
The report shows a 41 percent increase in the proportion of home births and a 43 percent increase in birth center births — 10 percent of home births and 14 percent of birth center births were in 2013 alone.
3.) Pain Control Alternatives
Dr. Sheila Chhutani, an obstetrician and gynecologist from Dallas, Texas, said more women are electing not to have an epidural, which stops pain. Her hospital recently started using nitrous oxide, or laughing gas.
“The patient can control it (pain under the gas) to a certain point,” Chhutani said. “It definitely helps take the edge off.”
The American Pregnancy Association reports nitrous oxide does carry some risks, but overall it is considered safe to use during labor. Women who use nitrous oxide during labor may still have an awareness of labor pain, said the APA; however, it helps them to relax and decreases their perception of labor pain. Nitrous oxide has also been shown to not affect infant alertness during the early bonding period between mother and newborn.
4.) Delayed Cord Clamping
This is another growing development, said Chhutani. It involves waiting until the placenta is delivered to clamp or cut the cord, with health benefits for infants.
“It is useful for premature infants and done routinely for them, but there is no evidence for full-term infants,” Chhutani said. She still grants the request to mothers at her facility.
“This is probably the fastest growing trend because everyone wants to do something good for their baby and it is usually pretty harmless,” she said.
In most cases, umbilical cord clamping is performed within 15 to 20 seconds after birth. While studies are ongoing, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists finds with term infants, delaying umbilical cord clamping to 30 to 60 seconds after birth is associated with neonatal benefits, including improved transitional circulation, better establishment of red blood cell volume, and decreased need for blood transfusion.