New mums more likely to have a C-section in some units
FIRST-TIME mothers in several maternity units are more likely to undergo a surgical procedure, such as caesarean section, than women who have already given birth
According to new figures, four in 10 of all first-time mothers at St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny in 2012 had a caesarean section compared to 36pc of those who already had children.
Contrasts also emerged in other hospitals, including Mayo General where 37pc of first-time mothers had a caesarean section compared to 26pc of existing mothers.
There were also gaps in other hospitals such as Wexford General (27pc v 21pc) and the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street where the gap was 26pc versus 20pc.
The figures were released under the Freedom of Information Act to AIMs Ireland, an organisation campaigning for better maternity services.
Krysia Lynch, co-chairperson of AIMS, said the figures were concerning, not just for caesarean section rates but other interventions.
These other interventions include instrumental deliveries involving the use of forceps and vacuum extraction, as well as episiotomies, where a surgical cut is made during childbirth.
The rates of intervention, she said, points once again to the inappropriateness of a consultant-led care model for healthy, low-risk mothers.
"There is no medical reason for such high levels of intervention and the effects of these interventions on first-time mothers will influence the outcome of any future pregnancies they may have."
She said instrumental deliveries and the use of episiotomies were also very high in most units across the country.
"The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin and Cork both had very high rates of episiotomies performed on first- time mothers at 39.4pc and 38.78pc respectively."
Asked to respond to the information, the HSE said it was aware there was variation in caesarean section rates but it should be noted that this is not just specific to Ireland but happens in the US and UK also.
A spokeswoman for St Luke's in Kilkenny, which has the highest caesarean section rate in the country, said it provided excellent quality of care to women in pregnancy, labour, birth and in the period following the birth of their babies.
"Caesarean birth, in many instances, is beneficial and potentially life-saving for either mother or child.
"In some circumstances, however, it may increase risk and be potentially life-threatening. The art of obstetrics is getting the balance right.
"Nationally, the rate rose from 13pc in 1999 to 26.2pc in 2007. Similar increases have been reported in other developed countries.
"The ethos that shapes clinical practice is to place the health of the mother and child at the centre of the care process," the spokeswoman added.