Professor Cecily Begley, a Professor of Midwifery at Trinity, has warned against increased rates of induced births by way of caesarean section at a conference organised by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI). She cited an increased risk of mothers dying at childbirth as reason for concern.
Begley said that childbirth in Ireland had reached “a scary point”, warning that the increased rates of induced birth could potentially lead to Ireland following trends in the United States, where maternal deaths have risen to 26.4% per 100,000, and where a direct correlation has been found between rising caesarean sections and increased maternal mortality.
Ireland currently has a caesarean section rate of 30%. The maternal death rate is 6 per 100,000 live births. Begley stated the optimal rate of caesarean sections as being between 9% and 16% to ensure that the probability of mothers dying in childbirth is being reduced.
Begley also stated that rising caesarean section rates worldwide were not due to maternal health, but rather factors such as the clinicians’ personal beliefs, the fear of litigation and the confidence of the medical professionals involved. She also expressed fear that the trend towards more caesarean sections was a consequence of the over-medicalisation of childbirth.
The conference was also told that expectant mothers who want to have their pregnancies “out of the way” for Christmas and the First Communions of their other children were availing of induced births. Patricia Hughes, a former director of midwifery and nursing in both Cork University Maternity Hospital and the Coombe Women and Infants Hospital, said that induction rates “soar” at these times.
Hughes said that while women should have agency over their own body when it comes to childbirth, she did not agree with “Johnny taxpayer” having to “troop up the cost of every woman coming in who wants to be induced or having a caesarean section.” She said that
“[c]aesarean sections are life saving operations, but there is a lot of stuff that is happening that is neither clear nor grey. The pressure on the system is intolerable. There is a budget for the health service which is finite and it has to be used wisely”.
The conference marked 100 years since midwifery was first regulated in Ireland.
Professor Begley is the current Chair of Nursing and Midwifery in Trinity and is also a Fellow of the University.
Begley has led a number of research teams, focusing mainly on physiological childbirth, women-centred maternity care, care of women with disabilities, advanced and specialist practice and self-esteem and assertiveness in student nurses and midwives.