Researchers at Liverpool University have recently discovered that high levels of lactic acid in amniotic fluid could indicate that the uterus is exhausted, therefore making the woman unable to give birth vaginally. A test has now been developed to indicate which mothers will be more likely to end up having a section on this basis, so that it can be performed sooner.
To me, this seems somewhat ridiculous. Birth is a normal and natural process. The uterus is comprised of muscles, and although higher levels of lactic acid will cause the muscles not to work at their most efficient, surely if mum and baby are doing fine they can be left to rest until the uterus has recuperated?
This test is being plugged as being a great way of discovering which women will ‘need’ c-sections and which won’t. In my opinion, it will lead to far more unnecessary operations, not less! If a woman is allowed to rest during labour, her body will recover enough to complete the task in hand. Developers of the test say that a c-section after a long labour is “the worst of both worlds”, even though the physiological process of natural labour is actually beneficial to the baby.
C-sections are not a great option for mum or baby; they can impair breathing for the newborn, can inhibit bonding and breastfeeding, and will invariably leave the mother with a lengthy and painful recovery period during a time in which they need to be able and energetic in order to look after their new babies. Obviously, in some cases a c-section certainly is the safest and best option — complete placenta praevia, transverse presentation, cord prolapse, brow presentation and footling breech presentation are all situations in which a section could be lifesaving for both mother and child. However, these situations are rare, and most of them would generally be detected before labour even begins.
Around half of all c-sections performed in the UK are ’emergency’ ones; however this description in itself is flawed. An emergency c-section is defined as one that wasn’t previously planned; it can still take hours from making the decision to getting the mother into the operating theatre. True emergency c-sections, or ‘crash’ sections, with which the mother and/or the baby are in immediate danger, are incredibly rare.
The fact remains that labour and birth has become a highly medicalised occurrence in which women are certain of the fact that they couldn’t manage it without medical help. In a ‘normal’ birth, the mother and baby will be subjected to various interventions and drugs that can inhibit the body’s natural ability to give birth. Prolonged labour does often lead to a c-section, but one must ask how different this situation would be if women felt confident in their ability to give birth to their babies. If the baby is in distress, then of course the priority is to get them safely out and into the world. A test such as this one will simply encourage the conveyor-belt mentality of modern medicine and prevent women, once again, from doing what their bodies were designed to do.