Health professionals should trust women's ability to give birth naturally, the World Health Organization (WHO) says in new guidelines that aim to reduce medical interventions in delivery rooms.
Over the past 20 years, there has been a significant rise in the use of methods to manage the birth process, such as infusions to speed up labor or cesarean sections.
While these interventions are meant to help women and their babies, they can have negative effects, the U.N. health agency says in its guidelines that were presented on Thursday in Geneva.
"The increasing medicalization of normal childbirth processes are undermining a woman's own capability to give birth and negatively impacting her birth experience," said Princess Nothemba Simelela, who leads the WHO family health section.
If labor progresses normally, and the woman and child are in good condition, there is no need for additional steps, she stressed.
Most of the 140 million babies that are delivered each year happen without complications for mothers and their newborns, according to the WHO.
The new guidelines stress that every childbirth is different, dispelling a rule of thumb that medical intervention is needed unless the cervix expands at a speed of 1 centimeter per hour.
Health workers must respect women's wishes during childbirth, even if medical interventions are needed, the U.N. agency says in its new recommendations, which now include breathing techniques and music.