A debate has been sparked after a doctor claimed that an increase in the number of caesarean births could partly be attributed to ‘increased fat tissue in the birth canal’, or in other words ‘fat vaginas’.
When asked to explain why older and heavier mothers have higher levels of intervention he told listeners: “With obesity you’ve got increased fat tissue in the birth canal, which makes the birth canal that much narrower, which makes it harder for the baby to squeeze through the birth canal. So you are more likely to end up with what is called an ‘obstructed labour’.”
Other experts have since questioned whether obstructed labours can be connected to the size of a woman’s vagina.
Consultant obstetrician Dr Virginia Beckett, spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told The Sun Online: “Some women may also experience obstructed labour during birth – this is absolutely not due to the size of a woman’s vagina.
“It occurs because of the position of the baby in the birth canal or a mismatch in the size of the birth canal and the size of the baby.
“Women who are overweight are more likely to have overweight babies, often because of pregnancy related diabetes.
“Larger babies may not rotate as easily in the birth canal, so that assistance is required to safely deliver the baby.”
Dr Beckett went on to say that both inductions and C-section births could be offered to women to help reduce risk of harmful complications.
“Induction of labour and caesareans are safe procedures and can lead to better health outcomes for both mother and baby,” she said.
“We are keen to refute any suggestion which makes women concerned about the appearance of their vagina.
“Vaginas and vulvas vary widely in appearance but their function remains the same, regardless of a woman’s weight.”
Dr Beckett also emphasised that the increase in the number of caesareans witnessed could be attributed to “rising maternal age and weight.”
She explained that women who are older – over the age of 35 – and those who are overweight are more likely to develop complications, such as gestational diabetes, which could lead to a condition called pre-eclampsia, which can pose a risk to the baby and mum-to-be.
“An induction may be offered to a woman so she can give birth early and avoid harm from this potentially serious condition.”
Milli Hill, author of How To Give Birth Like A Feminist, also queried the concept of attributing fat vaginas to the risk in assisted births.
“There is absolutely ZERO evidence that I am aware of to support the notion that women's vaginas can be 'fat', or that, even if they are, that this can obstruct the progress of a baby,” she told Grazia.
Around one in every four to five pregnant women in the UK gives birth via C-section.
And this figure looks set to rise with recent statistics revealing that caesareans accounted for 21% of births globally in 2015—up from 12% in 2000.