It is understood that the Duchess of Cambridge would prefer a natural birth. However, Beverley Turner isn't so sure of her chances, against a backdrop of normalising emergency C-sections. She investigates.
Last week, I tried to put on a bet that The Duchess of Cambridge will have an emergency Caesarean section. I realize that sounds a little crass: to earn money from a ‘life or death’ situation. But if events do unfold in the way that I sense is horribly predictable, I’ll need a little something to soften the blow as I bang my head on the table for yet another low risk, healthy woman who has fallen victim to the surgeon’s knife. Unfortunately, the bookies wouldn’t let me bet – perhaps they agree with me on the odds.
“Victim?!” yell an army of outraged Chelsea mums, “Did she say, ‘victim’?! These doctors sweep in and save lives!” Absolutely. Many do. And thank you NHS for the remarkable skill that does save the lives of many high-risk babies and mothers in danger. But with a C-section rate reaching 30 per cent (the World Health Organisation states that there is no reason for it to be more than 10-15 per cent) far too many obstetricians are merely mopping up the mess of previous interventions carried out because over-stretched, stranger midwives leave women alone to become so scared and agonised that they descend into a spiral of panic and distress.
These are the surgeons acting on behalf of maternity units failing women as they fall into a depressive cycle of defensive practise: boxes must be ticked, women must be hooked up to debilitating, stationary monitors, drugs must be administered ‘just in case’ (imagine how being steeped in that mindset must affect you if you’re delivering our future monarch). It doesn’t matter if women are left physically and mentally scarred by a traumatic birth as long as the hospital’s insurance company’s lawyers can report to their shareholders that they’re off the hook.
And against this backdrop of normalizing emergency C-sections, our beautiful Duchess of Cambridge enters the corridors of St Mary’s Hosptial’s Lindo Wing. The hospital itself has a brand new NHS Birth Centre with some of the country’s top midwives. There are pools, Swiss balls, soft mats to kneel on, low lighting, privacy, a protocol of quiet efficiency that prioritises every woman’s individual needs. In short, it is the type of unit that has implemented everything that leading birth experts now know will aid a woman’s chance of a normal, rewarding (and cheap for the tax-payer) birth. But if anaesthesia or other medical assistance is wanted, the delivery suite is just next door. It’s pretty damn perfect.
Despite rumours that the Duchess of Cambridge would like to use a birthing pool to help with the pain, The Lindo Wing doesn’t actually have any. Oops. It recently spent millions getting Sky TV fitted; providing an awesome wine list for new dads and lovely toiletries in the bathrooms, but there are no mats and balls; just lots of swanky new beds above posh lino that will make it easier for the obstetrician to get a better view of flat-on-her-back Kate-a-kimbo than if she were comfortably squatting. We can only pity her if this model of modern-day, medical, female suppression was selected on the grounds of being easier to secure with boydguards. And keep our fingers crossed that Wills has ordered a ‘Birthpool In A Box’ that somebody will help him inflate and fill.