How to ask for a C-section whilst giving birth - even if you are refused one

Operating room nurse showing newborn to mother while c-section is being performed in the background
Mums are being urged to speak up for their right to choose a C-section -Credit:Getty Images/Westend61

NHS Inform states that roughly a third of all babies in the UK are born through caesarean delivery, with about half of these procedures being planned.

Yet, there persists a strong negative outlook on elective C-sections, with frequent reports of women being denied this surgery despite expressing their preference for it.

Made In Chelsea's former star Louise Thompson exclusively shared an excerpt from her new book, Lucky: Learning To Live Again, with the Mail on Sunday. She detailed her traumatic birth experience in 2021 when she welcomed her son Leo, saying: "I was refused a C-section and nearly bled to death after my womb tore."

34 year old Thompson eventually underwent an emergency C-section, required numerous blood transfusions, and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of her terrifying ordeal.

However, there now seems to be some hope on the horizon, as a parliamentary inquiry into birth trauma was kickstarted this week.

It is calling for a national strategy to better maternity care, emphasising that women frequently perceive themselves as being "treated as an inconvenience". The inquiry demands respect for women's birth preferences.

But why does some negativity persist towards electing to have a caesarean, and how can expecting mums speak up for their right to choose this procedure?

Louise Thompson
Made in Chelsea's Louise Thompson has bravely opened up about how she was reportedly 'refused' a C-section whilst giving birth -Credit:Getty

"Every pregnant woman is different, and their individual needs and preferences should play the most important role in planning the birth of their baby," advises Dr Ranee Thakar, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

"If someone is considering a caesarean birth or has questions or anxieties regarding birth, they should tell their healthcare professional as soon as possible. Personal feelings, concerns and opinions are all important and should be respected by healthcare professionals when discussing birth plans."

She emphasises that a planned caesarean is a surgical procedure, with its own benefits and risks which need to be weighed against those of a planned vaginal birth.

Dr Shazia Malik, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital, part of HCA UK, comments: "There has historically been a stigma around elective caesarean sections, often characterised by the outdated notion of being 'too posh to push'. However, this attitude fails to recognise the multitude of valid reasons a woman may need or choose to have a planned C-section."

"Every pregnancy is different," Malik notes, "and there are numerous medical and personal factors that can make an elective C-section the safest or most appropriate option for both mother and baby. Ultimately, the goal should be a safe and positive birth experience."

Malik encourages expectant mothers to "openly discuss their hopes, fears and preferences around delivery" with their healthcare providers early in the pregnancy journey, emphasising: "It's crucial women feel empowered to have these conversations without judgment. As obstetricians, we want to work in partnership with expectant mothers, providing the necessary support so mothers-to-be can make a fully informed choice."

Amina Hatia, a midwife and manager at Tommy's, the pregnancy research and baby loss charity, is a staunch advocate for the availability of elective C-sections as an option for all expectant mothers. "No decisions about your pregnancy and birth should be made without your informed consent, based on the best evidence," Hatia said.

"These discussions should always cover the benefits, risks, alternatives, and how you feel about the options."

"Sadly though, not all women are listened to or supported. They are not always able to ask questions and access the support they need to make a choice about the best birth option for them."

"There is also societal pressure, partly because of the promotion of unrealistic ideals, such as 'the best way to give birth', or the perception that someone is 'too posh to push'. This fails to take into account the complex needs of pregnant women who may have had a previous traumatic experience, that has affected how they view birth and what they feel safe with."

Hatia encourages women who feel their concerns are being ignored to seek further advice. "Write down any questions you may have and don't be afraid to ask those questions," she recommends.

"If you don't understand the answers, ask for it to be explained again until it makes sense to you and you feel safe in making a decision that is right for you."

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