28/04/2004

Doctors urged to discourage unnecessary Caesarean births

Government health advisers are urging doctors to try to persuade women not to have a Caesarean birth if they do not need one.

Doctors are being advised not to automatically agree to a Caesarean if they do not believe that it would benefit the health of the woman or baby involved.

However, guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence say doctors should allow a woman to choose how she gives birth. They also say that women must be informed of the risks and benefits of different ways of having a baby.

According to available statistics around 1.5% of all births in England and Wales involve Caesarean sections that have been carried out for "non-medical" reasons. Recently, actresses and pop stars, including Victoria Beckham and Elizabeth Hurley, have made Caesarean births popular. A national audit showed that in 2001, 21.5% of babies in England and Wales were born by Caesarean. The World Health Organisation says that Caesareans are only appropriate in between 10% and 15% of births.

The operation, considered major surgery, is routinely used for medical reasons, such as the baby being in the breech position or where labour has progressed too slowly.

Medical experts have warned that Caesarean sections carry a variety of risks, including blood clots, bladder injury, the need for further surgery in women - and can lead to greater breathing problems for the baby.

They also cost £1,000 more than the average £700 for a natural birth.

(KmcA)

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