Pregnancy is an utter joy. It’s also a minefield of advice, warnings, dos and don’ts. And it’s about to get even more complicated. Pregnant women may soon be given additional health warnings about the risks they face during a natural birth. Doctors are starting to consider giving expectant mothers a list of pros and cons for giving birth naturally, just as they do for C-sections and other pregnancy-related operations.
This follows a landmark case in the Supreme Court which saw a woman win £5.25 million following the natural birth of her son Sam in 1999, who was severely brain damaged during delivery.
Nadine Montgomery was facing a more complicated labour than usual, and she stated that medics neglected to give her proper advice. Mrs Montgomery believes had she been aware of the risks of a natural birth, she would have opted for a Caesarean section instead, preventing the damage to Sam’s brain. Her doctors claimed that steering women towards C-sections isn’t in the ‘maternal interest’.
The court ruled in favour of Mrs Montgomery, stating she should have been fully informed. The ruling also called for action to be taken to end this ‘medical paternalism’. The ruling is expected to be applied to all births, leading the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to consider the best way to provide information to mothers-to-be.
The options include the production of leaflets and asking that women sign a consent form, although it is unlikely this will be made mandatory. At present, women who are considering C-sections are fully informed about the risk of blood loss, infections, and other possible problems. They are not, however, told the risks that are associated with having a natural birth, which include incontinence and tearing.
Nine out of ten women suffer, at the very least, tearing during a natural birth, and the new proposals would explain the risks in more detail. However, it remains to be seen exactly what measures will be brought in to provide women with this additional information.