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Caesarean rate 'should be cut'
Many women are opting for Caesarean sections
Nurses are to press for a reduction in the number of Caesarean sections undertaken in the UK each year.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) annual congress in Harrogate heard that the current Caesarean rate in the UK was more than double that recommended by the World Health Organization.

Midwife Carolyn Basak told the congress that the popular perception of Caesarean section as "quick, clean and easy" was turning childbirth from "a joyful family event into a frightening medical one".

Ninety per cent of women have some morbidity following this major surgery

Carolyn Basak, midwife
She was not against Caesarean section in appropriate cases but said that whereas 30 years ago only 3% of babies were delivered by Caesarean, the figure now was 20% and had doubled in the last 10 years.

Ms Basak said the operation inevitably put mothers and babies at some risk.

"Ninety per cent of women have some morbidity following this major surgery."


Complications associated with Caesarean can include a risk of hysterectomy, postnatal depression and even death.

Rebecca Gray, from Cornwall, condemned high profile stars for using Caesarean delivery as a means of fitting childbirth into their busy schedules.

Spice girls Victoria Beckham and Mel G, All Saints star Melanie Blatt, DJ Zoe Ball and actress Patsy Kensit are among the stars who have opted for a Caesarean birth in recent years.

Ms Gray said: "Women see these very famous, very glamorous women opting for a Caesarean section and they don't hear about the consequences which may arise."

Lasting impact

Jean Thornton, from Leicester, stressed that the operation could have a lasting impact on a woman's wellbeing.

She described how she had spent two hours on the phone, counselling a woman who still felt she had failed in some way by having a son delivered by caesarean 60 years earlier.

Ms Basak said the World Health Organization recommended a Caesarean section rate of 10% to 15% as an absolute maximum in developed countries, but in some midwifery units in the UK 40% of births were by Caesarean.

She said: "Women have the right to make choices, but they must be fully informed."

Denise Chaffer said that Caesareans cost the NHS 26.6m a year and divert already scarce staff away from other women.

She said: "A woman who has a Caesarean needs three midwives.

"Should women who opt for Caesareans take midwives and paediatric staff and resources away from other women?"

Some 85% of delegates supported the call for the RCN to lobby the incoming government for 'positive action' to reduce Caesarean section rates.


The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said it was undertaking an audit of Caesarean sections in collaboration with the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the National Childbirth Trust.

A spokeswoman said: "This will look at how many Caesarean sections are taking place, how the decisions to proceed with this type of delivery are being made and women's views in relation to the mode of delivery.

"The audit may go someway to answer the concerns raised."

The results of the audit will be published in October.

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