October 26, 2008


'Fear of pain' causes big rise in caesareans: Nearly a quarter of all births in Britain last year were by section - up from 9 per cent in 1980. Now a leading midwife says this is 'unacceptably high', and that women lack the confidence to have a natural birth. (Denis Campbell, 10/26/08, The Observer)

There are people who regard how a woman gives birth as a barometer of her womanliness. Some view elective caesareans as a sellout, as evidence that mothers-to-be, afraid of natural childbirth, have taken the easy option. The decision of celebrities such as Victoria Beckham and Christina Aguilera to give birth this way has led to claims that some women are 'too posh to push'.

Now one of Britain's leading midwives has reignited the debate about caesareans. In an interview with The Observer, Louise Silverton, deputy general-secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, has controversially claimed that an increasing number of women under 40 are less prepared to undergo the physical trauma of childbirth than their predecessors, a trend that is pushing up the rate of surgical deliveries.

She argued that 25 per cent of births being caesareans is an 'unacceptably high and needlessly high' figure and that those 170,000 deliveries involve dangers for both the mothers and their babies. In 1980 it was just 9 per cent. While any woman can request the procedure, NHS guidelines say there should be good clinical or psychological reasons.

Silverton believes caesareans have become too easy to obtain, especially the 66,500 procedures - 9.5 per cent - that are planned in advance. 'Society's tolerance of pain and illness has reduced significantly,' she said. 'Women are less tolerant of labour pains because they haven't developed tolerance of pain. For example, if they get period pain they will either take Nurofen or go to their GP.

'Women are trying to remove the symptoms of pregnancy as much as they can. They are seeking to control everything. Choosing to have a caesarean gives you an element of control.'

But she added: 'A caesarean is major abdominal surgery. I don't think women realise that. They see it as just another way of giving birth. They see it as easy. And they think that if they can have an elective caesarean they will have no pain because they haven't been in labour.'

While acknowledging that labour is 'unbelievably painful', Silverton pointed out that the pain is temporary, unlike back pain, gallstones or kidney stones. She also claimed that women under 40 were more likely to have an 'epidural in a way that their predecessors wouldn't'.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2008 11:40 AM
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