Can This Simple Kitchen Staple Reduce The Number Of C-Sections?

Can This Simple Kitchen Staple Reduce The Number Of C-Sections?

It was reported this week a simple kitchen staple could help to reduce the number of c-sections.

According to the new study published in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal & NeoNatal Medicine, bicarbonate of soda could help to reduce the number of women having c-sections because of failure to progress.

‘Failure to progress’ is one of the leading reasons why women give birth by c-section. Failure to progress is described as a slow or stalled labour. It is usually used to describe a first labour of over 20 hours or a labour of over 14 hours for a woman who has given birth previously. You can read more in Failure To Progress – 6 Things That Prolong Labour.

Can This Simple Kitchen Staple Reduce The Number Of C-Sections?

The term is often also used when a woman is not dilating  1 cm per hour in active labour and occurs in around 10% of women.

Artificial oxytocin (Syntocinon/Pitocin) is usually given to restart labour, although this is only successful in around half of cases, the remaining women go on to have c-sections.

The number of babies born by c-section is on the rise. In Australia and the US, around a third of all babies are born this way. In some countries, including the Dominican Republic and Brazil, over half of all babies are born via c-section. For more information be sure to read Highest C-Cection Rates By Country.

C-sections undoubtedly save lives but we’re becoming aware more women are having unnecessary surgery as a result of interventions. C-cestions carries risks for both mothers and babies. Many hospitals are now trying to reduce their c-section rates and support women in having normal physiological births.

How Can Bicarbonate Soda Help?

Lactic acid can inhibit muscle performance and cause problems for professional athletes. For this reason, some athletes take bicarbonate of soda orally before competitions.

The bi-carb neutralises the lactic acid and allows the muscles to work harder. In labouring women, lactic acid can build up in the uterus, which is a muscle. This lactic acid build up can inhibit labour.

It is already known measuring amniotic fluid lactate (the amount of lactic acid present in the amniotic fluid during labour) can be used to predict labour outcomes.

One study found women with higher levels of amniotic fluid lactate were more likely to have dysfunctional labours. A lower level of amniotic fluid lactate was associated with spontaneous labour.

This new research looked at whether bicarbonate of soda would reduce the number of women having c-sections.

Scientists from the University of Liverpool and the Karolinska Institute of Sweden hoped the bicarbonate, which is alkaline, would neutralise the lactic acid in the body.

This would allow the uterus to contract more efficiently and labour to progress naturally, much like the athletes who consume bicarbonate of soda before competing.

The researchers included two hundred dystocic (slow or stalled) labours in the study. The acidity of the amniotic fluid was measured upon diagnosis of a dystocic labour, and then half of the participants were given bicarbonate and the other half were not.

Those who weren’t given bicarbonate were given artificial oxytocin immediately, as the typical response to ‘failure to progress’.

Those women who were given bicarbonate waited an hour before being given artificial oxytocin, in the hope the bicarbonate would begin to take effect in that time. A new sample of the amniotic fluid lactate was taken after one hour for all participants.

What Did The Study Find Out?

The results were more than promising. The use of bicarbonate was associated with a 17% increase in the number of women achieving vaginal birth.

This is a big jump in the number of women avoiding c-sections and, if replicated, could improve birth experiences for some women who experience dystocic labour. The researchers hope to replicate the results at more hospitals to decrease the number of women having c-sections.

Bicarbonate of soda is cheap to buy, so this could provide an affordable answer to reducing the number of c-sections and allowing women to birth vaginally. It will also be beneficial to clinics in developing countries where resources for c-sections may not be readily available.

The initial study featured just 200 women which is arguably a limited sample and all were still given artificial oxytocin. It will be interesting to see whether the results are replicated across a wider sample, and if the researchers consider a longer time between taking bicarb soda and administration of artificial oxytocin.

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Fiona Peacock CONTRIBUTOR

Fiona Peacock is a writer, researcher and lover of all things to do with pregnancy, birth and motherhood (apart from the lack of sleep). She is a home birth advocate, passionate about gentle parenting and is also really tired.


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