The highest caesarean section rate recorded in a hospital in England (2011), Scotland (2010) and Wales (2011) was 36.3%, 32% and 34.3% respectively. This is high – very high. And although the World Health Organisation officially withdrew its recommended caesarean percentage rate of 10% – 15% in 2010, with these rates more than double their previous recommendation, one has to ask the simple question – why?
The table shows what this means if we disregard the percentages and think about the number of actual babies.
Total number of births
Number of babies born by c-section
|England – Chelsea & Westminster (2011)|| |
|Scotland – Princess Royal Maternity (2010)|| |
|Wales – Royal Glamorgan (2011)|| |
This is just three hospitals! This is a lot of babies!
Clearly these hospitals have large obstetric units where, rightly so, women classed as ‘high risk’ need access to the best obstetric care. However we can assume that not all these women would have been classed as ‘high risk’ when their labours began and in fact we might assume that a proportion of these caesarean sections were unplanned. Not elective, nor an emergency but somewhere along the way the normal physiological process of labour became disturbed and it was deemed necessary that for the mother’s or baby’s safety, to have the operation.
This is one of my recent Facebook posts -
‘Agree or disagree…
Too many caesarean sections happen simply because the woman becomes scared during labour.’
This generated 43 likes and 26 comments. The comments were really interesting. Clearly there were different opinions but there did seem to be a general agreement with this statement. One respondent wrote, ‘The media and government have such a control over us that we pass on the wrong information through TV and magazines and even from mother to child about how unnatural birth is.’
And this really is the point. Women are being conditioned to believe that childbirth is ‘something to get through’ and ‘is painful’ and because we hear this again and again from trusted sources, friends, family, documentaries, it lodges in our mind as being true. And we become scared – scared about being in pain and scared about the unknown. Or maybe scared because we’ve done it once before and didn’t have a positive experience. And the physical reaction this negative mental state triggers is the fight or flight response. Many natural childbirth preparation methods are based on the work of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read who developed the Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome – fear of pain produces true pain through the medium of tension.
It’s wrong to say in one sweeping statement that ‘childbirth is painful’ because not all women who give birth experience pain. It’s your responsibility to try and tackle your negative emotions about childbirth, increasing your knowledge about the normality of giving birth, thereby reducing the fear of the unknown.
Do not become another caesarean section statistic because in very real terms how you give birth to your baby can set the tone for your and your child’s long term physical and mental health. For a minority of women the right course of care is to have an elective or emergency caesarean section. But for many it’s because social conditioning has kicked in, the labouring woman becomes scared and consequently the physiological birth process becomes disturbed and on her notes will be written ‘FTP – failure to progress’
So do not fail. Educate yourself about what is going to happen, bombard your midwife with questions and make sure you are in control. This way there can be no failure because you’ve done everything you can to help your chances in achieving the type of birth experience you have planned for. And if the labour takes an unexpected path and your baby had to be born caesarean section, then it was for the right reason – it became medically important to do so.
‘Nobody can help an involuntarily process. The point is not to disturb it.’
Dr. Michel Odent
The statistics are from a website called BirthChoiceUK – an excellent resource providing detailed information about maternity care in the UK.
As a natural childbirth consultant, Sarah helps expecting women and their partners make informed choices about their pregnancy and birth. Sarah teaches Hypnobirthing, lectures about normal birth and founded NaturalChildbirth – an international website all about pregnancy and birth – www.naturalchildbirth.co/uk