Labelling women who have caesareans as being too posh to push is grossly unfair, while the "obsession" with natural birth causes them “huge distress”, the television presenter Kirstie Allsopp has said.
On Saturday it was reported that caesarean rates in the UK were as high as one in three in some hospitals in middle-class areas.
But responding in a letter to the paper, the presenter of the Channel 4 programme Location, Location, Location argued: “The phrase ‘Too posh to push’ does nothing to ease the distress of women who may have been through a very traumatic experience and major abdominal surgery.”
She noted that caesareans were “more common when mothers are older, something that is more likely in affluent areas, and have had medicalised conceptions”.
The presenter, who gave birth to her first son at 34 and her second at 36, said she had little genuine choice in them both being by C-section.
The first was an emergency procedure while in the second she was strongly advised to have a caesarean, because of the baby’s position during pregnancy.
She wrote: “The current obsession with how a baby is born and fed can lead to huge distress on the part of women who feel that they have failed to give birth “naturally” or are unable to breastfeed.
“We should all look to celebrate the safe delivery of a baby, and be thankful that we have easy access to a procedure which saves countless lives.”
Speaking on Sunday, she said: "In 2010 the National Childbirth Trust undertook a survey and found that 32 per cent of its attendees had caesareans. That's among those who are looking to have a 'natural' birth."
She thought this was because those going to NCT classes tended to be older than average.
She said the stigmitisation of women who had caesareans was an important issue because new mothers went through a period of "extraordinary vulnerability".
"To be thinking that you have somehow failed by having a caesarean, and you are 'too posh to push', does not help," said Allsopp.
Nationally, 25 per cent of babies are now born by caesarean, up from nine per cent in 1980.
Part of this is driven by demographics: there are more older mothers than there were. There are also more overweight and obese mothers, which doctors know increases the chance of needing a caesarean.
However, two years ago researchers from the Government’s Medical Research Council claimed there was evidence that it was driven by demand too.
While 30 years ago mothers having caesareans "were more likely to come from deprived social backgrounds", by 2000 they were more likely to be from "higher social classes", said Ruth Dundas, of the MRC.
But NHS statistics show the proportion of planned caesareans has actually dropped slightly since 1980, from 44 to 40 per cent.
Other research indicates that women rarely actively choose them, and that more than nine in 10 are performed on medical advice.
Stephen Adams Telegrpah.co.uk