HORROR STATS. TOO POSH TO PUSH?
Are women who give birth in private hospitals more likely to be “too posh to push?”
A new Australian study released today revives this old chesnut and re-ignites ongoing tensions between midwives and obstetricians.
The landmark study of nearly 700,000 women in New South Wales – to be published today in the British Medical Journal’s open journal – shows that only 15 percent of women in private hospitals give birth with no intervention, while the figure in public hospitals is 35 per cent.
Leading midwife expert Dr Hannah Dahlen told the Sydney Morning Herald today that statistics showing that private patients were 20 percent less likely to have a normal vaginal delivery were “horrifying.”
Dr Dahlen, a professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney,
rejected the idea that women in private hospitals were more “risk averse” and asking for more intervention.
”A recent Queensland study surveyed women to see if those in private hospitals were more likely to request a caesarean section but found there were no difference,” she said.
”The findings … suggest a two-tier system exists in Australia without any obvious benefit for women and babies and a level of medical over-servicing which is difficult to defend,” she said.
Senior specialist and the president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians, Rupert Sherwood, told the SMH: ”We’ve always known the intervention rates are different between public and private hospitals,” Dr Sherwood said.
”We have no idea if the women in this study were choosing interventions like caesarean sections or not because the researcher did not ask women that.
”But we have good evidence that the women giving birth in private hospitals are more risk averse.”
It’s a worrying trend – but what’s behind it?
Are busy obstetricians scheduling caesareans to make their work flow easier? Are women in the private system more “risk averse”? And why would that be?
At The Hoopla, we don’t like competitive and judgemental birth stories. We understand a woman’s need to make her own choices, and that, in the arresting confusion of the delivery suite, all the best-laid birth plans can go right out the window.
But it’s important to keep an eye on worrying statistics about unnecessary intervention.
Is there a problem with obstetrics training? Is it a medico-legal issue?
Do doctors need to back off in the delivery suite and let women’s bodies do their thing but be ready and waiting to act only if things go wrong?
Over to you.