Every mother-to-be, in England and Wales, will soon be given the right to have her baby by caesarean section on the NHS, even if there is no medical need.
Under new guidelines recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), women will be given the right to choose whether they would prefer a natural birth or caesarean section. Previously, they were expected to give birth naturally unless there was a medical reason not to.
About a quarter of all births in the UK are currently caesarean deliveries. It is estimated that a caesarean section costs the NHS £800 more than a natural delivery. Health economists have calculated that reducing the caesarean section rate by one percentage point could save the NHS £5.6 million a year.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Dr Bryan Beattie, a consultant obstetrician who helped to draw up the existing NICE guidelines, said: “It is a huge development.
“Ten or 15 years ago there may have been a better argument for saying no, but caesarean sections have become much safer. We have closed the gap to the extent that you really do have to bring in maternal choice as part of the decision-making process.”
The guidelines are undoubtedly controversial. Independent midwife, Virginia Howes, debating the subject on the BBC, said: “What message are we giving our daughters and the women of tomorrow? That our bodies fail us; that we don’t need to go through this process? Women are amazing and you cannot judge and measure this feeling of empowerment that women [feel] when they give birth naturally. That cannot be measured by any statistician.”
For me, these new guidelines are a good thing. I have been advised that if I go onto have a second child, I should elect for a caesarean section – so this should hopefully mean that I can make that choice more easily, if and when the time comes. However, if I had have been offered this choice with my first pregnancy, I’m pretty sure that it would have confused matters for me – I am a firm believer in natural childbirth unless medical circumstances dictate, and so I would have been questioning why I was being given such a choice. I think it would have unnerved me.
In my opinion, it’s crucial that any mother-to-be is armed with all of the facts and truths behind childbirth, before being able to make an informed choice between a caesarean section and natural birth. Speaking from personal experience, and that of my friends’, it’s often the case that women entering their first experience of childbirth are very rarely prepared for everything that could happen. It is nature’s way of protecting us (and keeping the human race going!). So I seriously question whether any first-time mum could be capable of making such an immense choice, unless medical circumstances dictate otherwise and the decision is effectively made for them.
I would love to hear your views on the subject. If you have any thoughts to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section below.
Image by Richard Barry Photography.