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How did the Greens get it so wrong on ‘natural’ birth?

Reflecting on our progress since the 1990s, I often think about the phrase “too posh to push.” It’s a disgustingly misogynistic term, casually used back then to criticize women for their birthing choices—whether vaginally or via C-section. The tabloids thrived on speculating about female celebrities’ birth methods, creating a false impression that many women opted for C-sections out of convenience.

Today, hearing someone use that phrase would be shocking. Yet, myths about C-sections persist. For instance, the Green Party recently faced backlash for a policy on their website stating they aimed to reduce childbirth interventions and change the NHS culture to treat birth as a “normal and non-medical event.” They labeled C-sections as “expensive and, when not medically required, risky.”

Considering this policy was updated in April 2024, following several maternity scandals—including at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust, where mothers and babies died due to the pursuit of “normal birth at any cost”—it was incredibly tone-deaf. The Royal College of Midwives dropped its “normal birth” initiative in 2017, and British women have had the right to request a C-section since 2011, although some still struggle to have that request granted.

So why is the Green Party weighing in on what should be a private conversation between a woman and her medical team? Likely, it’s due to the presence of natural birthing advocates within their ranks who try to dominate this debate. Certain left-leaning, alternative circles seem partial to this mindset (I know from personal experience). When I wrote about the rise of freebirthing, I faced vitriolic attacks from proponents of “natural birth,” who nastily speculated about how I delivered my son—a complicated birth where we both could have died.

To be clear, defending women who have C-sections doesn’t mean I’m against natural births. Many friends and relatives have had problem-free vaginal deliveries, while others have been pressured into unwanted interventions. Supporting a woman’s choice in childbirth means creating a system that empowers her to make the best decision for herself and her baby. Our maternity system is broken, and fixing it so women feel listened to and supported should be the priority.

At the same time, the spread of extreme, anti-scientific information about childbirth and modern medicine—both online and in certain pre-natal groups—threatens this goal. Women who have had natural births often find the fringe rhetoric as off-putting as those who have had epidurals, forceps, or C-sections. Women who want a “natural” delivery shouldn’t be subjected to fearmongering about pain relief leading to a “cascade of interventions” or that their fear will result in an assisted birth. Nor should they be told that needing medical interventions signifies failure.

I believe most of us support the women in our lives, regardless of their birthing choices. We recognize that birth is unpredictable, influenced by many factors like the baby’s size, position, the shape of the woman’s pelvis, her health conditions, and the available medical staff. Obstetric science exists to prevent maternal and neonatal deaths and injuries that would otherwise occur naturally. Most of us understand that our birth experiences shape how we feel about them, but we can still make space to support other women’s choices.

Most planned C-sections occur after a woman and her medical team have carefully considered her medical history and the risks. Emergency C-sections save lives. The rising number of C-sections should be studied, but not conflated with the offensive assumption that women choose them for frivolous reasons. The additional cost or carbon footprint of a C-section shouldn’t be weaponized to undermine a woman’s right to choose her medical care. We know this; does the Green Party?

The party’s health spokesperson, Dr. Pallavi Devulapalli, emphasized that pregnancy and birth are natural processes, and that healthcare advances have made childbirth safer for women and children. She added that all women should receive the support needed for a good outcome, including medical intervention when necessary.

There will always be those who dismiss pregnancy as “not a medical condition.” I wish I had known to respond, “It isn’t, until it is.” This isn’t about pitting unmedicated vaginal births against those involving medical intervention. It’s about reproductive freedom and resisting political interference in female bodily autonomy—a concern all women should share, regardless of their birthing choices. The more important issue is fixing our maternity services.

The phrase “too posh to push” may be outdated—even the Mail, one of its proponents, has condemned the Greens—but the underlying attitudes persist. Let’s not let them dominate the conversation when so many women need to be heard.

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