A right to choose – as long as it’s a vaginal birth

Caesareans are often given a bad rap. Women are led to believe a caesarean is a last resort for emergency situations when things have gone (or are predicted to go) wrong. They are scared off by being repeatedly told ‘it’s major stomach surgery’ don’t you know. Or judged for suggesting a selfish choice which will put the life of their baby at risk. The overall message still – caesareans are something to be avoided wherever possible.

In fact, a caesarean can be an incredibly positive choice for many women and battling against the stigma just makes us feel bad when we really shouldn’t.

Birth practitioners and natural birth campaign groups quite rightly talk about:

  • A woman’s right to make an informed choice
  • The importance of a woman’s perception of control before, during and after her birth
  • The right to choose their mode of birth

So why am I complaining yet again?

Because for some practitioners and campaigners (and I want to make it clear this is definitely not all) this still excludes caesarean birth – by all means make an informed choice about your birth as long as it is in favour of a vaginal birth at home, in a birthing centre or at hospital.

An article by Tamara Parnay Birth of Mutual Understanding and Respect sums it up perfectly “Maternity care providers in all steps of the process, from pre-pregnancy though to postnatal care, need to move more in the direction of assisting people in personalised birth plans and helping them safely to realise these plans. In other words, they must consider the family to be an integral part of the decision-making process.”

She goes on to talk about the negative impact of competitive birth stories, the assumptions that are made about one’s own choices and outcomes compared with every other story we hear. The article is well worth a read!

It is of course wonderful to see such statements.

But the reality for many women is still that they will meet their clinicians and be told very little about one of the modes of birth – a caesarean. The balance of risk and benefit will still be skewed in favour of vaginal birth. And some women still find their informed request for a caesarean birth turned down flat.

In her book ‘Misconceptions’, Naomi Wolf says, ” Women deserve honest brokers and true advocates who will inform them about all risks and options available; who will explore what pain can be and what it might not have to be; who will make a concerted effort to eliminate unnecessary interventions; and who will stop romanticising either the control nature of high-tech mechanised labour or the culture of alternative birth.”

This is more like it – balance, reliable information and a non-judgemental approach to childbirth from absolutely everyone.