Women who had a caesarean section in a previous pregnancy are much more likely to opt for a safer vaginal birth if their antenatal care is led by a midwife, scientists claim.
Although c-sections are safe, research has shown that traditional birth and labour can protect the baby against long term-risks such as impaired immune response, asthma and type 2 diabetes.
In the first study of its kind, experts at Manchester University found midwives were more likely to promote a traditional birth in women who have already had a caesarean than obstetricians.
The team examined two groups of women who gave birth at a single hospital whose pre-natal care was either led by obstetricians or midwives.
More than 90 per cent of the midwife-led cohort intended to give birth vaginally compared to 77 per cent led by consultants, while those who actually did were 61.2 per cent and 46.9 per cent respectively.
Dr Helen White, a midwifery lecturer in the university’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, said: “Where it can be achieved safely, vaginal birth is preferable, but there’s a real issue with women who have had a caesarean once, opting for the same again.
“There aren’t many initiatives out there to break this cycle so this finding is important for providing evidence that midwives are best placed to promote vaginal birth.”
Authors of the study, published yesterday in the journal Birth, insist women should not reject caesarean birth when advised to do so but natural birth could be better for mothers and babies, as well as cheaper for the NHS.
Gillian Smith, Scotland director for the Royal College of Midwives, said: “I think it’s got to be about providing one-on-one care as then women feel more confident about trying out labour. Lots of women are concerned they might go into labour and then they have to get rushed into theatre so they feel they have to go for a c-section.
“It’s important to recognise that fear and support people.
“There’s no doubt about the health benefits of labour. But we have to remember c-sections are there for the purpose of helping women and babies survive.
“We owe them the safest birth possible, so it has to be right for each woman.”
Rebecca Schiller, chief executive of the charity Birthrights, which campaigns for improving pregnancy and childbirth, said women must be given unbiased information on all their choices.