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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 23:36 GMT 00:36 UK
Labour warning issued by midwives
pregnant woman
Women can be anxious about giving birth
Mothers and babies' lives are being put at risk by overuse of induction, epidural and caesarean, say midwives.

Delegates at the Royal College of Midwives annual conference in Cardiff want a reappraisal of the use of the three main obstetric interventions.

They called for expert bodies, including the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, to assess the evidence.

The conference heard that all three interventions can pose serious risks.

We are concerned that too many women are now receiving intervention without them always fully understanding the nature of these procedures.
Dame Karlene Davis
It also heard that these risks are rarely discussed with women in detail - sometimes not at all - and that as a result women were being the denied the opportunity to make an informed choice about their labour.

If women were given proper information on their use, the conference heard, they might make different choices that could have profound implications for the maternity services.

A reduction in caesareans and induced labour would help to reduce the number of births that require the use of instruments such as forceps - which are associated with a greater risk to both women and their babies.

Midwife Claire Wood, who put forward the motion, said: "Be very clear, this motion is not about setting professional against professional.

"Rather it could be an historical opportunity for all midwives to seize the initiative and lead the way forward in multi-disciplinary collaboration and to openly and honestly reappraise the care we give to all women."

Dame Karlene Davis, RCM general secretary, said: "Pregnancy, labour and childbirth is, for the majority of women, a natural healthy life event.

"We are concerned, however, that too many women are now receiving intervention, such as induction, epidural and caesarean section, without them always fully understanding the nature of these procedures and their potential risks.

"The RCM believes that the UK's caesarean rate is too high and will continue to campaign to inform women about all of their birth choices."

Guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence published last month urge doctors to persuade pregnant women not to have a caesarean if they do not need one.

The Department of Health supported the NICE guidelines, which are due to be reviewed in June 2005.

A spokesman for the department said: "We support the need for women to be offered evidence-based information and to enable them to make informed choices about their care during birth.

"Decisions about a woman's delivery need to be made by the woman in conjunction with the health professionals looking after her."

Around 1.5% of all births in England and Wales are caesareans carried out for non-medical reasons.

Caesareans 'must be discouraged'
28 Apr 04  |  Health
More women having natural births
01 Apr 04  |  Health
'How we cut Caesarean numbers'
28 Apr 04  |  Health

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