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Kirstie Allsopp: Stigma surrounding Caesareans 'has to stop'

Rebecca Lefort

Published 22/02/2011 | 13:06

Kirsty Allsopp Photo: Getty Images
Kirsty Allsopp Photo: Getty Images

Television presenter Kirstie Allsopp has launched an attack on natural birth campaigners, accusing them of being "reckless" in stigmatising women who have Caesarean sections.

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Miss Allsopp, whose two sons were delivered by C-section, said many women were made to feel a "failure" after undergoing the procedure.

She said more information should be provided about C-sections in antenatal classes.

And she accused the charity of being "reckless" by failing to cover the procedure in the charity's classes, which 100,000 expectant parents attend each year

Miss Allsopp, 39, said: "I suspect giving birth naturally is one of the most life-enhancing experiences you can have if it goes well.

"That's the dream, but for a quarter of women it is not the reality, and we need to make sure they don't feel like a failure.

"Because there are people who feel so passionately about what is known as a 'natural birth', and seem so against Caesareans, it can seem like there is very little middle ground."

She said that when giving birth to her sons with partner Ben Andersen, some natural birth advocates had even told her to ignore doctors' advice.

"They seem to be saying if they had been in our position they would have managed somehow, despite all the medical advice, to give birth naturally," she said.

"There are very few organisations that get away with suggesting you should ignore medical advice, but the NCT does.

"Of course there's a small percentage of women who decide they would rather have major surgery than give birth naturally, but in modern society that choice is theirs, we shouldn't poke our nose in, everybody has their reasons."

Miss Allsopp took to Twitter, the social networking site, to discuss the issue as a result of a conversation she had with a house-hunter while filming the Channel 4 show Location, Location, Location in Darlington.

The new mother told Mrs Allsopp she had received minimal information about C-sections in her NCT class, and had felt a failure after undergoing the operation two months ago.

Miss Allsopp then asked her 95,000 online followers: "Anyone been on an NCT course recently? Was there any info/discussion on what happens in the event of you needing a C-section?"

Hundreds of parents responded, with many claiming they were given little information by the NCT or even shunned as a result of the operation.

One father wrote: "After c-section my wife and I were the only couple not invited back to NCT group to tell expecting couples about it!"

However Belinda Phipps, the NCT's chief executive, said many expectant parents preferred to focus on a more natural birth.

Mrs Phipps, whose three children were delivered at home, replied to the accusations through Twitter.

She said that "most NCT classes are between 12 and 16 hours – with 8 pairs of people – fitting in everything is the problem" and "some actively decide they don't want it – and get cross if NCT try to force it – they are grown ups, up to them." To which Miss Allsopp said: "Not talking C-sections during a childbirth course is like not talking Shakespeare during an English literature course."

The heated debate reached a peak when Miss Allsopp accused Mrs Phipps of being "reckless" and Mrs Phipps responded by saying Mrs Allsopp's reasoning "did not make sense".

Miss Allsopp's first son, Bay, was born in July 2006. She had booked into the private St John and St Elizabeth birth unit in London with the aim of having a natural birth, but eventually was told she would need an emergency Caesarean to deliver Bay, who weighed 11lb 11oz.

Miss Allsopp said she hoped to avoid a Caesarean during her second time in labour in August 2008, but was warned by doctors that unless she underwent the procedure again to deliver Oscar, she would suffer a "definite rupture".

"I'm a confident woman and know I took the best advice," said Miss Allsopp. "But it makes me want to cry that some women don't have the information they need at such an important time. It has to stop."

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph after the online argument Mrs Phipps said: "If you've got a class of people who want home births then Caesareans aren't very interesting to them.

"Our teachers do a demonstration with Playmobil, but we don't force it on people.

"Our view on Caesareans is we would want to make sure women don't have a procedure if it could have been prevented. Some women are stigmatised by it, but some women are stigmatised by having home births or using birthing centres."

She said as a result of the online discussion one NCT course teacher was being investigated for failing to support a woman who had a Caesarean.

Telegraph.co.uk

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