Leading article: The natural-birth case is being lost

Related Topics

As pressures grow to check the steady growth in the size of the health bill, the decision of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, Nice, to give all women the right to give birth by Caesarean section might look like a step in the wrong direction. Each Caesarean costs about £800 more than a natural birth and the rate of Caesarean sections in this country is already well above the rate that the WHO recommends, which is 10 to 15 per cent.

But Nice – whose new guidelines on the matter come into force next month – is caught in a dilemma. Worries about costs must be weighed against the mantra of patient choice, and throughout the world more and more women elect to have Caesarean births. Britain's Caesarean rates rose from under 3 per cent in the 1950s to 12 per cent in 1990-91, 23 per cent in 2003-04 and are more than a quarter today. In the US the rise has been even sharper, from 4.5 per cent in the 1960s to 31 per cent in 2007 and more than one in three today. Some parts of Europe like the Benelux and Nordic countries are behind Britain in this respect. But even there the growth in rates of Caesarean births is striking.

Britain is following a trend dictated by various forces. Rising average ages at which mothers give birth and rising obesity levels among pregnant women tend to prompt women to choose Caesarean sections as the safer option. Risk-averse doctors feel that performing a Caesarean section reduces the likelihood of being sued for medical errors. One of the main arguments in favour of natural childbirth – that it gets easier the more children you have – has also lost much of its force in countries where women increasingly don't intend to have a second child.

For natural childbirth campaigners, the new NHS guidelines will be disappointing. A few decades ago they seemed to be winning the argument. Now the trend in the other direction is likely to be accentuated by making natural or surgical childbirth purely a matter of choice. There is little they can do. Several years ago, the Journal for the Royal Society of Medicine wrote: "We cannot realistically expect rates of Caesarean section to decline greatly if at all." The same observation could be made today.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

Read Next

The racist abuse of Mario Balotelli on Twitter is disgusting, but it can be stopped

Anna Jonsson
A survey by Which? found that some of the UK’s biggest airports, including Heathrow, left travellers the most agitated  

Third-runway momentum is gathering. We need to stop it in its tracks

Mary Dejevsky
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments