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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 June, 2003, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
NHS failings 'cause Caesarean hike'
Newborn baby in cot
The NCT questioned new mothers about their births
Poor facilities in maternity units mean women are less likely to have a natural birth, campaigners have suggested.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT), which surveyed new mothers, found women who felt they did not have the space, privacy and control that they needed were more likely to have emergency Caesareans than those who felt they did.

The latest official figures show around 22% of births are by Caesarean section.

The NCT says poor facilities in maternity units may contribute to this high rate.

It's hard to draw a direct line between the absence of that sort of environment and Caesarean sections
Dr Maggie Blott, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
The survey of 2,000 new mothers found less than half of those who had an emergency Caesarean were able to walk around as much as they wanted.

But more than 70% of women who had a vaginal birth were able to move about freely.

Women who had a natural birth were also more likely to have been able to control factors such as the temperature in the room and who had access than those who had Caesareans, the survey found.

More than half of women said they did not have access to facilities which they felt were highly important during labour, such as being in a homely 'non-clinical' room, being sure others could not hear them and having bean bags, mats and pillows to allow them to give birth comfortably.


Women were most likely to say they had the kind of facilities and support for the type of birth they wanted if they did not give birth in hospital, leading the NCT to renew its call for all women to have the choice of a home birth and access to a midwife-led unit.

Gillian Fletcher, NCT president, said: "The NCT wants to encourage maternity units to make improvements to the labour room environment to ensure women have a positive birth experience.

"Significant improvements can be made to labour rooms at little or no cost.

"For instance, beds can be moved to the side of the room to give women more space to move around. All women should have sufficient pillows, and use of floor mats, a birth ball and bean bags."

Dr Maggie Blott, of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, told BBC News Online that women should be able to give birth in comfortable surroundings.

"But it's hard to draw a direct line between the absence of that sort of environment and Caesarean sections.

"The important thing about care for women in labour is that they have one-to-one care from a midwife, and access to senior doctors if they need it.

"And if they are at low risk, they should be treated as being at low risk."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The government is committed to the principles of good quality, woman-centred maternity care and has provided 100m over two years to modernise and upgrade over 200 maternity units in England."

She added that the reasons for the increase in Caesarean sections were complex and not completely clear, but any interventions should be made on the basis of clinical need.

The NCT is holding its annual conference in London on Friday.

Speedy Caesareans 'reduce pain'
15 Jan 03  |  Health
Births 'should be less medical'
14 Jul 02  |  Health

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