Birth has become an over-medicalised experience for most women which deprives them of full participation in one of the most significant events in their lives, according to a charity.

The Association for Improvements in Maternity Services says women are being falsely reassured about the safety of procedures including epidurals, caesarians and foetal monitoring. It says the "cascade of interventions", including apparently harmless ones such as breaking the waters, can lead to other harmful interventions.

Calling for the development of the mother-friendly hospital, it says women never forget birth experiences: while kindness and compassion stay in the memory so do cruelty, technocratic arrogance and coercion.