The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has released two new resources aimed to help pregnant women and people make informed choices around how they plan to give birth and guide healthcare professionals to support their decision making.
Bringing together the latest available evidence, a new Patient Information Leaflet answers frequently asked questions around caesarean and vaginal births. This resource aims to help women better understand their options when it comes to planning for the birth of their baby.
The leaflet explores the reasons why some women may consider a caesarean birth, including having a previous difficult vaginal birth, or feeling anxious about giving birth for the first time. It also explains the benefits and potential risks of having a planned caesarean birth or a vaginal birth, providing statistics on the possible complications for mother and baby as a result of giving birth in different ways based on the best available evidence.
While the leaflet is not for women who have already been offered a caesarean birth because of specific reasons in their pregnancy, the impartial information provided aims to support birth choices. Healthcare professionals can help by discussing preferences, providing further information and answering questions a pregnant woman or their family might have.
Alongside this resource for pregnant women, the RCOG is publishing guidance for healthcare professionals on the consent process for women who are considering a planned caesarean birth. This guidance seeks to help healthcare professionals provide balanced information about the potential benefits and risks of planned caesarean births and vaginal births. It also aims to encourage meaningful discussions tailored to the individual’s needs between pregnant women and maternity staff. Included in the guidance is a template consent form that healthcare professionals can use to ensure they have shared all the necessary information with women.
Dr. Anwen Gorry, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and Chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Patient Information Committee, said: “We are committed to ensuring that every woman and pregnant person has access to safe, high-quality and individualised maternity care, and that they are listened to by healthcare professionals.
“We want to offer reassurance that giving birth in the UK is extremely safe whichever way your baby is born. This information has been produced to ensure that everyone has access to information about the risks and benefits of both vaginal and caesarean births. This, along with impartial and individualised discussions with healthcare professionals, will enable women to make an informed decision that is right for them. It is vital that this choice is respected while also providing safe care for a woman and her baby.
“We want women to feel empowered to make informed decisions about their care, and its important healthcare professionals accept and respect their preferences.”
Jane Plumb, Vice-chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Women’s Network, said: "Pregnant women and people should always have the final decision about their care. This information leaflet will help expectant parents plan for their baby's birth, giving them impartial information about the relative benefits and risks of vaginal and caesarean births.
“It is so important that pregnant women and people are listened to throughout their pregnancies. The consent guidance will aid true information exchange between healthcare professionals and pregnant women.
“This new guidance will ensure women's wishes and needs are prioritised, their informed decision-making is supported, and their care tailored to the individual.”
Dr Geeta Kumar, Chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Consent Task and Finish Group, said: “The new consent guidance is for healthcare professionals to support meaningful discussions around birth choices with women as part of the informed decision-making and consent process for those considering a planned caesarean birth.
“These conversations are essential to providing high-quality, women-centred care, that is tailored to their individual. We strongly believe that all women should feel equipped to make an informed decision that is right for them, and this can only be done by discussing all the necessary information and thoroughly explaining all options.”
Links to the resources are available below: