And Here I Thought The UK Was a Civilized Country. . .

I just discovered that in England and Wales a maternal request cesarean “is not on its own an indication” for surgery. What kind of a barbaric policy is it to push a woman into pain and suffering of vaginal childbirth against her own will? Can a country call itself civilized while claiming that a woman is not allowed to choose her method of delivering a child from her own body?

Don’t the so-called medical professionals who come up with reasons to prevent women from choosing the method of giving birth that suits them best realize that a woman who doesn’t want a vaginal delivery will develop every symptom under the sun that will allow her to qualify for a scheduled C-section? This is what my sister went through to guarantee that her wish for an elective cesarean was taken into account. This took place in Quebec where she was bullied by nasty, irresponsible doulas to reconsider and deliver vaginally while she was already in labor. You really have to be a monster to bully a woman in such a situation. (And then she was further bullied by “lactation activists.” And by crazy nurses who insisted the baby be awakened in the night to be fed when she was very obviously not hungry. The amount of bullying women undergo whenever they try to give birth is overwhelming.)

The anti-cesarean movement that claims you are not a woman until you have really suffered and had your vagina torn to shreds is gaining ground everywhere in the world. It’s sad to see that the UK still considers its female population to be incapable of making even the most basic decisions about their own bodies.


39 thoughts on “And Here I Thought The UK Was a Civilized Country. . .

  1. Sad, but true. Indeed most people think they know better than the woman in question what a woman should do with her body. Trends come and go, but sadly this never really changes.

    Do you know what the situation is in the US re: asking for Caesarians?


  2. Clarissa, since this is completely beyond my understanding, could you please explain the logic behind this utterly bizzare movement? Maybe in a separate post? I’ve never heard of this before and I’m both confused and nervous.


  3. Clarissa, since this is completely beyond my understanding, could you please explain the logic behind this utterly bizzare movement? Maybe in a separate post? I’ve never heard of this before and I’m both confused and nervous.


  4. May be I don’t understand something, but I have so far had difficulty to understand why not giving C-sections on demand is this horrible thing from the doctors’ side. If there are absolutely no medical reasons for this intervention, why should they do this *surgical procedure*? Had you been talking of painkillers, I would have signed under every word, but I don’t think I (or anybody) have this right for surgery on demand. With good painkillers why not give birth without C-section? Why is it this horror?


      1. Because there is limited number of doctors and medical resources (money), and doctors’ role is to preserve health, not to do everything a patient wants, especially if needless C-sections are controversial from health’s pov.


        1. What do you mean needless? I’m talking about elective C-sections that women who undergo them need. As for doctors and money, an elective C-section requires a lot LESS than a vaginal delivery. It lasts about 40 minutes – as opposed to a vaginal delivery that can go on for 30 or 40+ hours.

          Denying C-sections to women has nothing to do with saving resources. It has everything to do with controlling women’s bodies and putting them through pain and suffering against their will.


          1. Actually most times doctors dont do most of the delivery of babies, nurses have that position. I have no problem if the woman wishes to pay the difference if there is one.


    1. If you can get breast augmentation or a nose job on demand and nobody has a problem with that, then what’s the issue with a C-section (which is easier and requires only a local anaesthetic)?


      1. Because you pay your own money on plastic surgery to *private* doctors, it isn’t something a country has an interest in. If you pay a private doctor money, he’ll do whatever you want, regardless of health. That’s how it works in practice.

        When there is health insurance for everybody, and limited resources, and possibility of being sued for bad results to public, state’s hospitals, and many doctors think needless C-section is worse for fetus (just read an interview with the main doctor of one of Israeli’s hospitals on that topic) – then they have the right to have guidelines and weigh each case on medical grounds.


        1. “many doctors think needless C-section is worse for fetus”

          -This are quacks. Statistics proves otherwise. How about “needless” abortion? Should that be denied too?

          Mind you, in Canada abortion is not denied to women. The on-demand C-sections often are. And this is not an issue of money because I’m talking even about women who’d gladly pay any amount not to undergo a vaginal delivery.


    1. Just like when you need a root canal or a triple bypass. Or an antibiotic. Those things are decidedly unnatural, so I’m sure you practice what you preach and never take any medication for anything. I’m just wondering how come you are using a computer. Have you found one growing in a field?

      Those defenders of all things natural are beyond funny.


  5. I thought it may help the discussion if I presented some facts about the health service in the UK.

    There is no abortion on demand in the UK. Women need to convicne two doctors that it is medically necessary for her health.

    Nose jobs and breast augmentation are not generally available on the National Health Service unless it is medically necessary.

    Doctors in the UK rarely attend births unless there is a problem. Births are aided by midwices and are cheaper than doctors.

    The National Health Service in the UK abides by the WHO recommendation that c-sections should be minimised (around 10-15% of the total) as caesarean delivery is associated with high maternal and neonatal complication rates and increased health-care costs.


      1. Actually abortion law isn’t quite as restricted as that makes it sound:

        “Abortion is legal in the UK up to the 24th week of pregnancy. However, if there is a substantial risk to the woman’s life or if there are foetal abnormalities there is no time limit.

        To comply with the 1967 Abortion Act, two doctors must give their consent, stating that to continue with the pregnancy would present a risk to the physical or mental health of the woman or her existing children.”

        Although the law isn’t perfect and could do with being updated, in practice most women are able to get abortion on demand because of the mental health criteria, and the “morning after” pill can be had on demand from a doctor or a clinic.

        This law only applies on the UK mainland though, in Northern Ireland abortion is very restricted, because of the Catholic and Protestant fundamentalist influence.


        1. Thank you for the clarifications, David K. I remember reading a very balanced and non-hysterical discussion of the possibility of offering abortions on demand at any stage of the pregnancy in a UK magazine. Such a discussion is not possible in a US magazine because fundamentalists would have had a hissy fit. This is why I always thought that the British people were more civilized in this respect than the Americans. I wouldn’t like to discover otherwise now.


      2. No argument there – just making the point that ‘on demand’ medical care isn’t available in several contexts mot just around pregnancy.

        Still – at least in mainland Britain, abortion is free (only 9% are done privately) and better the Northern Ireland where they don’t have abortion at all and have to travel to the mainland if they need one. It’s also a lot better than most of Europe who (with a handful of exceptions) don’t permit abortions after 12 weeks which is why approxiamtely 6% of UK abortions are performed on women who normally reside in a foreign country.

        There’s a summary of European abortion laws here:


  6. In practise, at least according to those of my circle who’ve given birth recently, if you are really vehemently opposed to vaginal birth, you’ll mostly get one. However, there is an expectation of vaginal birth as the norm – ceasars are for problem deliveries. They don’t encourage elective for non medical reason (fear of childbirth is considered a medical reason) surgeries in general throughout the whole NHS.
    In the specific, following historical problems with Dr led deliveries, childbirth policy is to be less externally interventionist where possible, and a ceasar is about as interventionist as you can get. Inductions and water-breaking and pitocin drips are less widely used too, unless requested or indicated for specific medical reasons. The reasoning is that a ceasar, even when it can be carried out via epidural carries a higher risk, being major abdominal surgery. Although the risk of dying during either vaginal/caesarian delivery is only slightly higher for ceasars if the stats are controlled for pre-op complications, it is still higher risk and it is definitively higher for post operative complications and produces slower overall recovery times. The rate of post delivery complications and infant mortality for elective ceasars is higher for the infants also – I read a recent BMJ article, I’ll link if I can find it, speculating that because expected delivery dates are at best a guess, elective caesar babies are being delivered slightly too early, and in effect, haven’t finished cooking.


  7. Not arguing with your initial premise that women should get to choose what happens to their bodies…’cuz I’m RIGHT with you there…

    Vaginal childbirth does not need to shred one’s vagina, as I think I’ve posted before when this phrase has come up. Most of the post-vaginal-birth trauma women suffer comes from unnecessary interventions that transform vaginal birth INTO a scary traumatic event. The birth itself–vaginas were designed to handle it, remarkable stretchy things that they are, and in most cases (note MOST) it’s not a big deal unless or until the medical establishment makes it one. Anecdotal though my tale may be, my vagina is Just Fine, Thank You, and I’ve done it a couple of times, as have a lot of women throughout history. There is a growing body of medical information to support the theory that intervention-free (or intervention-minimal) childbirth for low-risk labors is the overall quickest (i.e. including prep and recovery), safest, and least risky mode of birth.

    I personally believe that a lot of women who elect C-sections do so based on faulty information and really crummy birth models and are thus not making a fully informed choice…but that said, I think the solution to that is to give better information, NOT to withhold the elective C. And the flawed info is so deeply entrenched into our cultural understandings that shifting the balance is going to take a LONG time.

    In the meantime, and yes, even then, I totally support a woman’s right to birth as she chooses to. It just makes me go “grrr” when vaginal birth is depicted as this Consistently Horrible Traumatic Vagina Shredding Sin Of Eve kind of thing.

    Respectfully offered,
    (who has probably never used the word “vagina” so many times in so few paragraphs…)


    1. If I’m not mistaken, our bodies were designed to die before reachimg the age of 25. Nowadays, none of us agree to such naturally short lifespan.

      It’s good to hear from people who have had good experiences with vaginal birth. In RL, though, I am yet to meet a single woman who doesn’t have a veritable horror story to tell about her vaginal delivery. You might be right about the causes of that. But who can blame women who choose to limit the experience to 30 minutes or less of an elective C-section?
      Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


      1. Oh, I totally can’t blame them in the slightest! But it makes me cringe when I hear stories about “Well, everything was going fine, and I was dilated to 6, and the contractions were hard but they didn’t hurt much, so they said I should get my epidural because the anaesthesiologist was on the floor…” and then she gets it, everything slows down, it takes another 21 hours, vagina gets shredded and she pees a little when she laughs for the next 40 years, and winds up with an emergency C anyway.

        I was a pushy bitch (read: educated myself and had intelligent defensible opinions) with good midwives who supported me, and a body that seems to be okay at this birthing thing, so I had two very good experiences.

        I can count on one hand the women I know who can say the same (not counting internet buddies I met through natural birthy stuff), which I think is tragic. Not ONE had a negative experience that started with a natural birth that went wrong or emergent; every single one had hospital interventions shoved on the, and that was that.

        Labor is…labor. Work. Incredibly hard and physically taxing work. I totally agree with your Sacrificial Motherhood post–and though I tossed out that “sin of Eve” thing in my last comment sort of offhandedly, now that I think about it, I honestly think there’s this guilt mechanism in place, of Biblical origin, saying that we as women have been doomed to suffer in childbirth because of our sins (i.e. tempting men to sin, cuz naturally it’s all about us) and now technology is saving us from our suffering, because of course the suffering would have to happen because we totally suck and deserve it or something…:-^)

        Effing twisted.


        1. *so they said I should get my epidural because the anaesthesiologist was on the floor…” and then she gets it, everything slows down*

          So, wait, you mean a woman shouldn’t get epidural, if she wishes not to have C-section, because it slows things down or even stops them? I’ve never heard it before. More info?


          1. El–YES! Epidural are documented to frequently slow down a normally progressing labor. I’m not sure what kind of links to give you, since websites about labor and birthing are notoriously biased; this phenomenon is pretty well documented, though–a google search for “epidural slow down labor” will give you hours of researchy fun.

            To summarize what I THINK the consensus is: labor (when it’s working the way it’s supposed to) puts the body under a certain amount of stress, and that stress produces adrenaline. Adrenaline in turn stimulates the production of oxytocin, the Happy Hormone, which diminishes pain but at the same time keeps the work of labor going and moving the baby down. Epidural reduces the stress, which reduces the adrenaline, which reduces the oxytocin, which stalls the labor because it needs oxytocin to get the baby moving. And the feedback loop of that naturally produced inner anaesthesia is broken, so anything else you DO feel through the rest of the labor is experienced without it. (Epidurals don’t always work, and they are designed to wear off at a certain point.)

            Then if the epidural stalls the labor, it’s standard to also give the mom Pitocin, which is an synthetic version of oxytocin–it gets the baby moving but doesn’t do the Happy Mommy part, and once the epidural begins to wear off a little and the natural pushing starts again, you’ve got natural oxytocin (unmonitored by medical intervention) at the SAME time as the synthetic stuff–double whammy pushing power, minus the physical sensation to know when to push effectively, plus idiots standing around the bed looking at the monitor screaming “PUSH! PUSH!” equals shredded vagina.

            There is also widely held belief that the epidural can cause reduced maternal blood pressure, which if it happens can affect the heart rate of the fetus–if this happens, it’s straight into Emergency C land.

            That’s not to say I (or any responsible midwives I know) believe Epidurals Are Evil–sometimes labors get stalled for other reasons, or go on so long that the mom is genuinely too exhausted to push, so they can be a really compassionate choice…but this medical model of epidurals as standard procedure are, IMO, a LOT of the problem with hospital birth today. In parts of Europe and Canada women have access to nitrous oxide in labor, which I would have loved to try…something that manages pain but doesn’t get in the way of the process…

            (Sorry, Clarissa, I didn’t mean to hijack your thread! Certain hobbyhorses are so knee-jerk for me that I can’t not spew my opinions, and el did ask…:-)


  8. I know of four women who have had both vaginal and c-section delivery and all of them say that the c-section was worse.


  9. Medical risks are higher in C-Ss vs vaginal delivery, in part because there are inherent risks to surgery, in part because the C-S patient population is skewed toward women with difficult pregnancies. The recovery time for C-S is considerably longer than for VagDel. There is variability in rates of episiotomies performed by individual obstetricians.

    Breast feeding: there is some value in providing breast milk for the first few months, if possible. In developing world conditions, breast is best for infants age newborn to 6 months, when their immune system has matured considerably. Breast feeding provides concentrated bacteria-free nutrition, and can make life and death difference under insufficient sanitation in many parts of the developing world. However, if one has clean formula prepared according to instructions (ie, full strength) with first-world clean (low-bacteria) public water supply, put into clean bottles, and used immediately, formula is perfectly fine. Short-term breast feeding may provide genuine but much less dramatic health advantages to infants 0 to 6 months under first-world conditions. Formula fed infants may be slightly more prone to diarrhea and slightly more prone to developing allergies than breast fed infants under “ideal” U.S./European sanitation and health care conditions.


    1. That’s exactly what I heard from my friend who is a microbioligist specializing in immunology. Breastfeeding until 6 months provides some health advantages to infants. Past that stage, however, there is no medical need to breastfeed. When I asked why some people breastfeed past that stage, the only answer was that it served the psychological needs of these women.


      1. :::cough cough (I know! I should just shut the hell up!)

        It’s also a really cheap way to feed a kid. Formula is crazy expensive. Breastfeeding can also serve the financial needs of the family for months beyond those first six. 🙂


        1. Actually, I know a way to get all the formula you can ever want absolutely for free. You go to the formula site, fill out a little questionnaire they always have asking “Are you planning to use formula?” (always respond in the negative), and then the formula companies will send you as much formula as you can possibly imagine and more.

          My sister used this trick. 🙂


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