PUSH! Um, if you feel like it. Or not, either way.

The Times is reporting on a new study which indicates that the practice of coaching laboring mothers to “push” is basically completely unneccesary.

The researchers, writing in the current issue of The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, say there is no evidence that bearing down during contractions helps either the mother or the child. They also suggest that women who are encouraged to push may be at higher risk for urinary problems after delivery.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Steven L. Bloom of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said the study did not mean that women should never push. Instead, he said, the message is “to do what feels natural to do – and for some women that would be no pushing.”

The finding does not mean that coaches are not helpful during childbirth, only that they should not emphasize pushing.

Given how archetypal a moment this has become (can you remember the last movie birth you saw where the mother wasn’t coached to push?) I was surprised to read (later in the article) that it’s only been in the medical literature since the 50s. My inner Twisty assumes that this is some kind of patriarchal conspiracy to make women feel inadequate if their labor goes on too long (like it’s ever short enough!) – you know, like if you’d just pushed harder … but then again I can imagine where it would seem likely to help. Anyway, I’m taking a printout of the article in with me the next time I go to the doctor! (hat tip to Daddy Types, a new favorite blog.)

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