Women are to be provided with information and advice to put them in control of decisions made during labour, new guidelines state.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued new guidelines that provide clear and consistent advice to midwives and nurses on how to support and care for women in labour.
The recommendations state that women should be given information and support to make informed decisions that are right for them.
It is stated that women going through labour should receive "supportive one-to-one care".
Where labour is progressing normally, midwives should not offer clinical interventions.
Before choosing an epidural analgesia, women should be told about the risks and benefits and its implications for their labour.
Finally, instrumental births should be undertaken using a tested effective anaesthesia.
Andrea Sutcliffe, deputy chief executive of NICE, said: "We want to make sure every woman's experience of birth is as good as it can be and have used the best available evidence to set a national standard on how midwives and doctors can make labour a positive experience for women.
"Currently, the care of women in labour may be varied across the country – these guidelines set the standards of care that every woman should receive."
Maureen Treadwell of the British Trauma Association said: "This guideline puts women at the centre of decision-making about heir own maternity care and will impact on every woman who is planning a birth.
"This guideline will be pivotal in developing best practice and ensuring that the majority of women remember labour and birth as the positive experience that it should be."
"Its not-before-time that women have-their-say about this very special time in their life.For to long now, I think women have felt pressurised into taking drugs and procedures they don't want during childbirth, many of which lead to a long or complicated birth, just because it suited the doctors, not the mother. Funny though, my wife and I discussed birth not so long ago. She is adamant that she is going to have a water-birth and that was years before this report came out" - Name and address supplied