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National Childbirth Survey

5. Special procedures or devices used to hasten or manage labor ("medical interventions") are not the exception.

Sixty-one percent of women reported having between six and ten medical interventions. The most common was an electronic fetal monitor, that was used on more than 90 percent of women. An intravenous drip was done on 87 percent of women; having membranes broken, on 55 percent; Pitocin, on 53 percent; bladder catheterization, on 52 percent. More than four in ten (43 percent) reported having between three and five major interventions, which include inductions, episiotomies (a preemptive cut in the perineum to make a larger vaginal opening), vacuum extractions or forceps, and c-sections. How did women feel about interventions? Only about a third of the women were adamantly for (19 percent) or against (12 percent) them (unless medically necessary), while the majority of moms rejected the notion that interventions were completely right or wrong. More surprising, the women not only kept their options open to accept or refuse a procedure; 66 percent of them said they knew it was their legal right to do so.

Since the numbers suggest that most women are likely to face a medical intervention at some point during labor and delivery, it's important that you discuss the procedures with your caregiver. While rates of episiotomies are down nationally (and only 27 percent of those surveyed reported having the incision), it's helpful to know where your health care provider stands on this and other interventions.

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