Yesterday NICE issued their Quality Standard for Caesarean Section.
Contrary to media reporting NICE statements regarding maternal request caesareans are NOT new. They published a guideline for caesarean section back in 2011. In this they recommended that women requesting a caesarean be offered documented discussion about the benefits and risks of all birth options and clarified that if a woman continued to prefer a caesarean they should be supported in achieving this.
Once again the media has jumped on the emotive labelling of women ‘too posh to push’ blaming them for this rise in caesarean rates. NICE does not believe this group of women are responsible for the rise and conclude that “Many of the factors contributing to CS rates are often poorly understood.” And as Mcdonagh points out currently hospitals do not categorise births accurately. We have no way of knowing the actual number of maternal requests (where there are NO medical reasons for it) and unfortunately the new Quality Standard does not require hospitals to improve upon their reporting in this regard.
In actual fact, over the 30 year period in which caesarean rates have risen from 9% to 25% “rates of infant deaths have decreased significantly. The neonatal mortality rate fell by 62%, from 7.7 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1980 to 2.9 in 2010, and the perinatal mortality rate (which includes stillbirths) fell by 44% from 13.3 deaths per 1,000 total births in 1980 to 7.4 in 2010 (and in October 1992, the legal definition of a stillbirth was changed to include deaths after 24 completed weeks of gestation or more, instead of after 28 completed weeks of gestation or more; therefore improvements in perinatal mortality outcomes may be even greater.)” McDonagh
The popular press rarely report this issue accurately. NICE are absolutely right to continue to recommend that balanced discussion be documented. It is critial the imbalance is tackled to ensure women can make informed decisions.