Women’s preferences about the way their baby should be delivered varies throughout pregnancy, a study has shown.
The study, carried out by experts at the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Liverpool, found that women’s preferences for vaginal birth or caesarean delivery on maternal request (CDMR) were influenced by practical circumstances and changed throughout their pregnancies.
Most women preferred vaginal birth but put health concerns such as safety of the baby and circumstances such as the course of their labour, and the practices of midwives and obstetricians they encountered over preference.
The study tracked 454 women accessing NHS care for the first time, and was the first study of women’s views of CDMR in the UK to follow the same group of women from their antenatal booking appointment to 12 months after the birth.
The women were asked on a questionnaire about whether they would like a vaginal birth or via CDMR. At the stage when women booked their place in hospital, 72% wanted to give birth vaginally, but by 36 weeks this figure had increased to 80%.
The study recommends transparency of actual birth methods and that both women and clinicians should revisit options at multiple time-points.
Author, Dr. Carol Kingdon said: ‘This study has highlighted that few women may have any real choice about how they give birth in NHS maternity hospitals.’
General Secretary at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Cathy Warwick said: ‘The RCM welcomes this important study. It highlights that the way information is given to women can have a major impact on how they choose to give birth.’