Despite concerns about a rising number of caesarean sections – and mothers deemed ‘too posh to push’ – top gynaecologists have warned that thousands of women are in fact not allowed a caesarean birth, when it might be the best option, and suffer life-changing injuries as a result.
‘Serious pelvic-floor disorders involving incontinence and other debilitating symptoms are sadly becoming more common among our patients after birth, with many needing several further operations,’ says Dr Robert Freeman, an NHS consultant gynaecologist.
According to guidance set by NICE, all women should be allowed to choose a caesarean, as long as the risks and benefits of both methods of birth are communicated, enabling mums-to-be to ‘make an informed decision’. Dr Freeman says: ‘Women are not being warned about the risks of vaginal delivery and spoken to about other options, like caesareans. This is especially true for those at high risk. Instead, they think these injuries are a normal part of childbirth, when they needn’t be.’
Jen Hall, from the childbirth injury charity MASIC, says her organisation has seen a significant rise in the number of women seeking their support over the past two years. ‘We’re getting requests every day from women who are in desperate need of help.’
Forty per cent who give birth vaginally will suffer a pelvic-floor condition lasting at least a decade after birth, and one in three will have urinary incontinence. One in ten have a pelvic-organ prolapse – where one or more of the organs in the pelvis slip down and bulge into the vagina.
A recent survey by MASIC found that nearly half of those who sustained these injuries suffered post-natal depression as a result, while a quarter regretted having a child because of the trauma. Experts say guidelines must change and that women should now be told of potentially life-changing injuries that childbirth can cause.
‘Many of my patients who have been left injured by their vaginal delivery say they wish they had known there was a risk this might happen,’ says Ranee Thakar. ‘We have to start being frank and honest, and empowering women to make their own informed choice, whatever choice that might be.’
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