WHO childbirth guideline: What you need to know


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a new childbirth guideline. It establishes global care standards for healthy pregnant women and reduces unnecessary medical interventions.

Chantelle Bacchus from Bolt Burdon Kemp explains what this new guideline means for the future

As a Child Brain Injury lawyer, too often I hear of expectant mothers receiving a robotic response of ‘everything seems fine’ or ‘that is normal’ when they say that something does not feel right. This does little to reassure the expectant mother but does deter them from returning to the hospital. Unfortunately, lack of well-timed medical intervention during pregnancy or labour can result in lifelong injures to a previously well-progressing baby. This, it must be stressed, is in a minority of cases.

Low risk pregnancies can change and it is important that mothers have the support of midwives and medics when they need guidance and reassurance. WHO’s new recommendations named ‘Intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience’[1] has one main goal: For women with low risk pregnancies to have a positive childbirth experience and less medical intervention if there is slow progression to labour.

Of course, it is crucial for women to be at the centre of decision making about childbirth. However, women put their trust in midwives and medical professionals to ensure a safe labour and delivery of their child. Ultimately the point of the whole experience is to give birth to a healthy baby.

What this means for you

It is possible that your chosen hospital will adopt the WHO childbirth guideline to enable mothers with low risk pregnancies to enjoy the childbirth experience rather than it being hurried through.

You may not know if your hospital has implemented these guidelines; therefore, it is important that you speak with your midwife or obstetrician at antenatal checks and find out what help you will get in the following situations:

  • You cannot feel your baby moving; or
  • You have coloured discharge; or
  • You have any discharge or fluid leak but are not at full term; or
  • Your waters have broken and you are not at full term; or
  • You are bleeding; or
  • You are experiencing headaches, severe stomach pain or visual changes; or
  • You are in labour and can see your umbilical cord; or
  • You are having contractions but not progressing with your labour.

Not all of these are necessarily life-threatening to your baby but it is important to be empowered and know what to look for.

My advice in relation to this childbirth guideline

My advice to you, wherever you are, is this – SPEAK UP! If you feel that something is not right, YOU know your body, YOU know your pregnancy. Do not let anyone silence what your baby or your body is trying to say. Do not be silenced by labels and guidelines. YOU have the power!

Chantelle Bacchus, Solicitor in the Child Brain Injury Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp

To find out more, check out the information on the WHO website