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26th Feb 2018

Hospital bans women from caesareans unless there is a ‘legitimate’ medical reason

Ireland's rate is quite high.

The c-section rate in Ireland ranges from 38 percent at St Luke’s in Kilkenny to less than 20 percent at Sligo General.

Overall, nationally caesareans have increased from 7 percent in 1984, to 13 percent in 1993, to 30 percent in 2014.

Now one hospital in the UK – where rates are similarly high – has banned women from having caesareans unless there is a specific medical reason for the procedure.

Oxford University Hospitals – a major trust in England – will not, for example offer them to those “who are frightened or have had previous traumatic births”.

In contrast, the UK’s health watchdog, Nice, says that women should be allowed a caesarean without a medical reason once the risks and benefits have been explained to her.

“Charities claim the trust is trying to save money and pressure more women into having a natural birth. Managers deny this is the case and say caesareans are not always the best option,” reports

And a spokesperson for the Birth Trauma Association charity said: “This policy is a breach, not only of Nice guidelines, but of common humanity. We suspect the policy is driven by an ill-conceived desire to save money.”

In 2016, a woman-centred approach to caesarean birth has been introduced at University Maternity Hospital Limerick.

The HSE says a natural caesarean – otherwise known as a gentle or slowed-down caesarean – “puts maternal choice and control at the heart of the procedure and allows for earlier contact between mother and baby in the first moments after birth”.

The technique attempts to replicate as closely as possible the natural delivery.

C-section rates generally are on the rise in many developed countries. Ireland’s National Maternity Strategy identifies a number of possible reasons for this, including “reductions in the risk of caesarean delivery, increasing litigation, increases in first births among older women and the rise in multiple births resulting from assisted reproduction”.