April is Caesarean Section Awareness Month as promoted by ICAN, the International Caesarean Awareness Network. Caesarean sections can be required for emergency reasons when the labour process requires intervention either for the safety of the mother, baby or both, and they can also be elective. However, elective too can be broken down into situations where there is simply a preference for a C-section against where there is a medical need, again for the mother and/or baby’s safety.
A C-section is major abdominal surgery which, of course, carries its own risks including infection, scarring and the side effects of the use of an anaesthetic. The recovery can often be more painful and longer than that for a vaginal birth with advice that mother’s limit heavy duties, driving and even avoid carrying anything heavier than their baby for the first six weeks. However, there is often an unfair negative connotation attached to C-section births, particularly elective ones, with unhelpful comments such as being ‘too posh to push’ or joking that the baby has come out of the ‘sun roof’ often seen in the media. Even the reference to a vaginal birth as being a ‘natural birth’ implies an unnatural element in a C-section. This is unhelpful and fails to respect the need for options and choice within maternity care. The care of the mother and baby should always be paramount and educated, informed decisions reached about the safest method of delivery on a case by case basis.
Personally, I had an elective C-section due to health reasons with the full support of my Obstetrician and Midwife. I’ll forever be grateful that they discussed both the pros and cons with me in respect of both my own and my baby’s health before allowing me to make an informed choice. Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as I was.
Caesarean Sections in the News
We have recently seen in the news the horrific stories arising out of the Shropshire maternity scandal where over 200 babies and 9 mothers lost their lives due to failings in the care provided by the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. Many more babies were also left with serious lifelong injuries sustained as a result of negligent maternity care during the pregnancy or at the time of labour/birth. A report into the Trust’s actions found that many of these incidents could have been avoided if birth by caesarean section had been considered but found there was a reluctance on the part of the Obstetrics and Midwifery teams to offer these. They even found that steps were taken to dissuade pregnant mothers from seeking a C-section due to the perception that there was a target, treated as a limit, as to how many C-sections the Trust should be performing.
Many C-sections are also carried out as an emergency procedure when the labour process for a vaginal birth fails to progress as expected. The need to have an emergency C-section does not automatically mean that there has been negligence in the mother’s care but, in some cases, the potential harm caused to a mother and her baby as a result of reaching an emergency stage could have been avoided with earlier intervention or a reconsideration of the mother’s birth plan ahead of the labour.
If you or your baby have suffered an injury or harm as a result of medical negligence during your maternity care, labour or birth then you may be entitled to seek compensation.
Lynsay McFarlane is a Senior Solicitor in our specialist Personal Injury team. To find out if you have a compensation claim, contact Lynsay on 01382 346792 or LMcFarlane@thorntons-law.co.uk. Alternatively, contact any member of our specialist Personal Injury Team on 0800 731 8434 or click here for further information.