NCT response: NICE caesarean guidelines

Released on: 31 October 2011

New guidelines will be published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in November regarding caesarean sections.

Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive of NCT, the UK's largest charity for parents, said:

“Deciding how you give birth is not a choice whether to wear the red dress or the green dress.  How you give birth can be affected by your health condition or your baby’s, as well as your preference and values, and may have short- and long-term consequences for both of you.

“It is vital that the health services recognise that women and their partners want to be and feel safe during their birth. However, they also want their birth to be a positive experience, one that is fulfilling and starts them off as parents in a way that gives them confidence and good memories to look back on.

“Our services fail women badly at the moment.  They are not as safe as they could be and they leave about a third of women reporting their experience as traumatising in some way. This is usually because they felt unsupported, or because they had medical intervention carried out in a way that left them feeling the birth process was out of their control.

“It is important that women do have the option of caesarean section if they feel, after understanding the risks and benefits, it is in their or their baby’s best interests and they are fully informed of the process.  It is also important that the vast majority of women who want to have a vaginal birth have confidence that they will be supported properly and are provided with the necessary care.  Women should not be put in a position where the fear of a poorly supported vaginal birth forces them to choose a caesarean section where the medical risks are greater for most women. Much more important than anything is that the NHS runs a service that means - whichever sort of birth you have - your experience is made as positive as possible with a midwife you know and trust by your side throughout your labour. Over all there is a need to reduce the risks of both surgical and vaginal births.

“It is unacceptable for women to be offered a caesarean section in ignorance of the risks.  It is also unacceptable for women who have a phobia of labour or birth or have had a previous poorly supported birth to have their experience ignored and their request refused when they have considered the options and are making an informed decision.”