Computer system could reduce caesarean rates

A computer-based system that helps women decide which type of birth is most appropriate for them could reduce the number of caesarean sections by 4,000 a year, says a study to be published today.

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Researchers found women who had previously had a caesarean who then used the programme – which recommends the best way for them to have their baby – were more likely to opt for a natural birth.

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The participants were divided into three groups. One group was given access to a simple computer programme with descriptions of the risks involved in normal and caesarean deliveries.

Another was given information on risks, asked to ascribe importance to various desired outcomes and given a computer printout recommendation based on their answers.

The final group had standard care from midwives and obstetricians.

The proportions opting for a natural birth were 30% in the usual care group, 29% in the simple computer information group and 37% for those who used the decision analysis tool.

Women in the basic computer information and analysis groups were also found to be less anxious than those who had the standard care.

The full results of the study are published today by the British Medical Journal.

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Rates of Caesarean section are increasing in the UK – from 9% of births in 1980 to 23% now. Although they can be desirable, Caesareans can increase the risks of complications to the baby and the mother, particularly for future pregnancies.

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