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One fifth of women say they felt pressured by healthcare professionals to give birth ‘naturally’ against their wishes

In a survey conducted by Mumsnet ahead of the publication of the Ockenden Report, 21% of the women asked about their experiences of childbirth over the past 20 years said they felt pressured by healthcare professionals to have a natural birth against their wishes.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Apr 1, 2022

In 24 hours we received 2203 responses to our poll.  Many hundreds of Mumsnet users also took the time to share deeply distressing and personal stories about their experiences of childbirth, naming more than 50 hospitals across the UK in the process:

“I was a high risk mother and was forced to give birth naturally. As a result myself and my child almost died. I will never get over it and have flashbacks every night.”

“I was four days into an induction, utterly exhausted, desperate for it to end, begged for a c section and was told 'no, we need to give you the opportunity to have the vaginal birth you want' even though I never had any preference either way.”

“Had to shout and scream in labour to force them to go through with a pre-planned c-section that was needed for medical reasons. Was very traumatising.”

“I had to fight for an elective section after a very traumatic emergency c-section with my first pregnancy. I had to really fight and the consultant was very obviously annoyed with me.”

“A lot of pressure. Heard doctors laughing about me wanting a c-section outside my room”.

Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet said:

“The received wisdom on Mumsnet is that you’re having a baby, not a birth and that the priority should be the health of the mother and child, rather than an idealised version of what a birth ought to be like. The outpouring of stories from Mumsnet users over the last 24 hours show that in far too many cases this is simply not happening. 

"There's no doubt that the NHS is full of incredible professionals doing their utmost for women, but there also seems to be an institutional bias in favour of natural birth come what may, which results in many mothers undergoing horrific births. This often comes with lasting - and sometimes tragic - consequences for mothers and babies.”

ENDS

For further information or media requests, please contact comms@mumsnet.com.

We asked users:  In light of the Ockenden Report on maternity failings at Shrewsbury and Telford, we're trying to understand if the problems it has highlighted go beyond one NHS trust.  If you've given birth in the UK since 2000, did you feel under any pressure from healthcare professionals to have a natural birth against your wishes?  2320 women responded between 28 and 29 March, and 21.2% (492) of those women said they felt pressured to have a natural birth. 

Released on 30th March 2022.