Sent Home From Labor & Delivery For “False Labor,” & Other Ways We Gaslight Women

Laboring with my first daughter was not easy. After being sent home from labor and delivery for following my doctor’s advice (given as he boarded a flight to Aruba) to “go straight to labor and delivery” because my contractions were regular, things ramped up again and so I headed back to the hospital… and was sent home from the hospital, again, at midnight. This time I was bleeding, weeping and yelling through contractions that were 3-5 minutes apart, but was turned out because I hadn’t hit the magic 4 centimeters of dilatation. “If we admit you now, your chances of having a c-section will double,” the triage doctor informed me. Perhaps I imagined it, but I could swear the nurses smirked each time they informed me that this was my first labor, it could go on for days.

I hobbled away with a bath towel between my legs, enraged. My cervix might have failed to fulfill the textbook definition of active labor, but I was certain that my baby was coming. Sure enough, I was back four hours later, and by the time I got the epidural I’d been demanding for hours, I was close to eight centimeters; it was almost too late.

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New Guidelines Establish The Rights Of Women When Giving Birth


For more than 60 years, it has been the standard of care to try to speed up childbirth with drugs, or to perform a cesarean section if labor was seen as progressing too slowly.

Now a new set of recommendations is changing the game.

A little history is required to understand the importance of that one recommendation, says Dr. Aaron Caughey, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, who did not work on the report. In 1955, Dr. Emanuel Friedman studied 500 women and concluded that labor is normal when, during the intense phase of contractions, the cervix opens at a rate of at least one centimeter (about 0.4 inches) an hour. “Dr. Friedman showed that 95 percent of women progressed” at this rate, says Caughey. “And that became the standard of care.”

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