Researchers asked 102 pregnant women and 341 midwives, obstetricians and other doctors what complications – from minor issues such as a prolonged birth and superficial tears to severe problems such as anal and urinary incontinence and severe tearing – would make them choose a caesarean section.
In all categories, the pregnant women were far more likely to be prepared to put up with complications in order to have a natural birth than their midwives or doctors.
Approximately one in four pregnancies in the UK ends in a caesarean section, and most are offered in the face of potential complications such as the baby lying in the wrong position for natural birth.
But the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital study suggested that women, given an informed choice, were less likely than the professionals treating them to take a more cautious approach.
Study author Catherine Turner said: “Our study found that pregnant women were more likely to aim for a vaginal delivery, and they accept a higher threshold of risks from vaginal delivery when compared with clinicians.”
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, agreed that health professionals could let their own negative experiences influence the recommendations they gave to women.
“If they’ve seen a traumatic birth, or been involved in a tragedy, there is no debriefing for them. It can mean they are more judgemental about the risks involved.”
She added: “I recognise that this is very difficult to avoid, but they need to realise that for most women, this is something that they feel it is important to do for themselves.”