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Pregnant women given a negative view of caesareans, says campaigner

With 1 in 4 births via caesarean, BBC’s ‘Scrubbing Up’ asks why they're portrayed as a last resort

Posted: 10 October 2011
by Amanda Pauley
Do babies born via caesarean have a higher risk of suffering from breathing problems?
Is antenatal advice perpetuating caesarean myths?

Giving birth is one of the most beautiful experiences women experience, yet antenatal education does little to encourage choice in labour, says campaigner and author Leigh East. After writing a book on caesarean birth, Leigh has spoken out on the BBC's ‘Scrubbing Up’ about the myths surrounding the proceedure.

Leigh warns that the negative portrayal of caesareans means many women may end up with “unnecessary” feelings of regret and failure if they do not give birth naturally.

Currently one in four UK births are by caesarean, with unplanned operations accounting for two thirds of these.

The myths surrounding this medical option include the idea that it can harm bonding between mum and baby, that you cannot then go on to have a vaginal birth for the next pregnancy and that it can leave mums unable to lift their new baby for the first six weeks.

But, says Leigh, none of these common beliefs are universally true and the benefits of caesarean in some situations should be explained.

She believes that antenatal advice does nothing to reassure mums-to-be in case they need a caesarean and fails to explain how important this option is when vaginal delivery carries a risk to mum and baby.

Leigh also claims that the risks that come with vaginal birth are downplayed as it's portrayed as the ideal option. She adds that labelling mums who give birth by caesarean as “too posh to push” leaves pregnant women unable to develop a flexible attitude to birth.

"There are huge benefits of preparing for the possibility of a caesarean as it gives you a greater understanding of your options," Leigh says.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) has started to address the issue, saying women should be presented with “evidence based information” so they can make an “informed decision.”

Location, Location, Location’ star Kirstie Allsop added her voice to the issue, saying awareness on the subject was vital, after admitting she felt like “a failure” for giving birth by caesarean.

The World Health Organisation has also dropped its previous recommendation to limit the number of caesareans in the UK, to focus on individual pregnancies.

Did you feel you were enough information to plan your birth options?

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