Nov
24

NHS trusts are STILL promoting natural births to mothers despite series of baby deaths being linked to the delivery method

Author // Lucy Atkinson
Posted in // Blog

….according to this article that appeared this week.

WARNING: This article discusses maternal and infant death rates.

But is that true? Is it an accurate representation of the choices and decisions facing both mothers and their maternity care providers?

Firstly, let me make it clear that I am not actually an advocate for natural birth. I am an advocate for informed choice in birth. When mothers feel in control and listened to, they come away from their births with higher levels of satisfaction, no matter what the outcome.

So, has a ‘series of baby deaths been linked to the (natural) delivery method’? Well, in times gone by, all baby deaths would have been linked to the ‘method’ of natural delivery because there wasn’t much choice. Let’s look at the situation now, though. Put bluntly, do more babies die when they are born by a ‘natural method’ than when they are born by c-section?

No.

Babies born by vaginal delivery are quite substantially less likely to be admitted to neonatal intensive care at 6.3% compared with 13.9%. But this does not take into account that most caesareans are carried out for medical reasons, and therefore the likelihood of needing neonatal intensive care is high. There is also some evidence that a vaginal birth may have benefits for the baby. Longer term, it is thought that babies born by c-section may be at greater risk of developing asthma and be obese as adults.

Actually, maternal and infant death rates in the UK nowadays are very, very low. No-one can pinpoint all the factors, but this is likely to be due to improved diet and general health; improved medical care; improved education and awareness and improved antenatal monitoring among other things.

However, that is very little comfort to anyone who is one of the few who have suffered loss of their baby or partner through neonatal complications. Of course, their grief is going to take over; if they felt uncertain, out of control, or not listened to, then their trauma is very real and amplified.

But is ‘natural birth’ as unsafe as this article would have us believe? Let’s compare maternal death rates in different countries. The UK ranks 23rd globally, with a death rate of 8.2 per 100,000 live births; that rate has actually fallen significantly over the past 15 years. Compare that with the US; a country where childbirth is highly medicalised (A c-section rate of 32% compared to the UK rate of around 25%). They have a much-increased maternal death rate of 16.7 per 100,000 live births, which gives them a global rank of 39. An increased c-section rate does not improve outcomes for mothers.

My heart goes out to the mothers featured in this article; they clearly feel that they weren’t listened to, they weren’t involved in the decisions regarding their care, and they have suffered as a result. Standards in maternity care still have a long way to go; there are improvements that can and should be made.

The biggest improvement should be in the way that mothers are informed, supported and listened to.

This article does nothing to further that improvement for women; scaremongering simply makes it harder for women to get the information they need and make the choices that are right for them.

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