Letter: The birth war

Sir: As a mother of three months' standing, perhaps I may be permitted to share my insights into the turf war between midwives and obstetricians.

Women should be allowed to choose the type of birth they have. The midwife- led, woman-centred, natural childbirth lobby is persuasive in that normal, straightforward deliveries do not benefit from medicalised over-management.

I considered having a midwife-led home delivery but when I decided to opt for a hospital delivery, I nevertheless determined that I would have a natural, drug-free, active-birth.

In the event, I gave birth anaesthetised from the waist down and not a moment too soon. Antenatal checks - conducted by midwives who were so certain of the simplicity of childbirth that they poured bland reassurance on my concerns - had failed either to predict or detect the disproportion of my son's head circumference. After a 28-hour labour - prolonged by a midwife who admitted she had been hanging on in the hope of a non-assisted delivery - my son was delivered instrumentally. I doubt he would have survived a home birth.

Birth is natural, but so are perinatal deaths and complications. The low rates of infant and maternal mortality owe much to cautious antenatal care and timely obstetric intervention.

By entrenching themselves on each side of the fence, neither obstetricians nor midwives do any favours for the lay mother-to-be.

Women should be allowed to choose the type of birth they have. I do not, however, believe they should be propagandised into thinking that all the options they can choose from are equally safe.

ALEX GREY

Richmond, Surrey

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