NCT response: NICE guidelines on caesarean sections

Released on: 23 November 2011

New guidelines have been published by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) regarding caesarean sections.

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

“It is vital that the health services recognise that women and their partners want to be safe and to feel safe during their birth. They also want their birth to be a positive experience, one that starts them off as parents in a way that gives them confidence and a feeling of being in control.

“Deciding how you give birth can be a complicated decision to make and is affected by your health condition or your baby’s, as well as your own preference and values. There may be short and long-term consequences for both of you.

“Most women want a straightforward birth, some need a caesarean. When women are treated with respect, and are offered support and information tailored to their concerns, very few of them will choose a caesarean birth unless there are clear health reasons.

“However, our services fail women badly at the moment, with midwifery numbers well below the level required to guarantee safe and satisfying care. We hear from too many women who have found their experience 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. NHS trusts should plan services to avert preventable complications from developing, to reduce avoidable obstetric interventions and to prevent trauma to women and babies. If caesarean rates go up following the change to the guidelines, it will be evidence that women are not getting the quality of midwifery support they need to instil confidence and feelings of safety while giving birth.

"NICE guidelines have been invaluable in raising awareness about the need to justify the use of major surgery. The updated recommendations on caesarean birth are welcome, as they mean many women can now safely choose a vaginal birth instead of being advised to opt for a surgical operation. We are also glad that this new guideline emphasises the need for good communication between women and health professionals, and does not suggest that caesarean should be offered as an option to all women.”