Don’t demonise mothers opting for C-sections

The suggestion that women choose caesareans purely for lifestyle reasons is offensive and wrong

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The rise in the number of expectant mothers in the UAE having caesarean sections is raising concerns. As The National reported yesterday, doctors say that the number of women opting for surgery over natural delivery is increasing in the country's hospitals. This might be out of the fear of the pain a natural birth may bring. But it may not take into account the amount of risk a C-section delivery places on mothers and on infants. It is a major procedure that should never be taken lightly.

In the UAE, there are no nationwide studies on how many women have C-sections, nor on the reasons that lead them to the surgery room. The local increase in cases could be driven by unwanted or emergency procedures rather than personal preference. Clearly, we need to know why.

In many cases, doctors carry out C-sections because of problems that arise during labour, especially when the baby seems at risk or is too big to be delivered naturally. To assume that women opt for a C-section without deliberation or as a lifestyle choice is misleading.

It is important that mothers recognise the dangers of such a procedure. At the same time, it is vital that the public conversation around this issue is neither alarmist nor suggestive of a mother going into a C-section casually. The phrase "too posh to push" is common in the English press, referring to a well-off woman who would prefer the swiftness of a C-section than a long and difficult labour. And yet few such women exist. For those expectant mothers who don't need emergency C-sections – which is a medical intervention, not a choice – but rather intended a planned Caesarean, the procedure is still risky and rarely entered into without a lengthy medical discussion.

A rise in the number of C-sections can give cause for concern and it is right that medical experts highlight the dangers. Certainly it is possible that factors such as better health insurance in the UAE might encourage some mothers to consider C-sections.

And yet a public conversation needs to take into account the sensitivities of mothers facing difficult decisions ahead of potentially the most physically traumatic experience of their lives. Suggestions that they take such decisions lightly may not be correct and hurtful for those women making decisions about their own bodies.