Kate Middleton's normal birth could reduce UK's caesarean rate

The Duchess of Cambridge's choice to give birth naturally could help reduce the UK's high caesarean birth rate

Kate Middleton's birth plan is set to inspire the next generation of mums to opt for normal childbirth rather than an elective caesarean.

The Palace announced that the Duchess of Cambridge, who is due to give birth to her first child next month, is planning a normal birth, shunning the 'too posh to push' cliche. And just like her fashion choices, what the Duchess does, the rest of us usually follow.

Giving birth via any method is a life changing experience and mums who need or choose to have their baby by caesarean should in no way feel they've opting for the 'easy' option. After all, a caesarean is major abdominal surgery.

However, with the rate of elective caesareans high in the UK, some charities and midwifery groups are keen to extol the virtues of giving birth vaginally. Not only is this more natural, less costly and easier to recover from, it's also healthier for both mother and baby.

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Mervi Jokinen, Professional Adviser to the Royal College of Midwives is pleased the Palace has made public their plans: "I think its very positive that Kate’s come out and said it in the media – because people have had different expectations of what she would choose.

"Really it just means that she’s a healthy woman with a healthy pregnancy – and giving birth normally is the first choice and the safest for her and any another woman with a normal pregnancy."

She explains: "It's always an individual choice so with some celebrities who appear to have chosen caesareans, hopefully they’ve been given all the information and know the risks, particularly of having a major operation for no medical reason."

She adds: "We all agree that the normal, spontaneous vaginal birth is the ideal. Your body has been building up to it for nine months and it really is natural end point for that pregnancy. When you go through labour, it's part of preparing yourself to return to normal.

"It's also an important transition for the baby - all the stress hormones and squeezing through the birth canal help the baby successfully transition to being an individual independent from its mother."

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Benefits of normal birth

- Though there are risks associated with both methods, normal birth is less risky for the mum. (Unless you are considered high risk, in which case a caesarean may be a better option.)

- Mums don't lose sensation or awareness during the birth. For a caesarean, you will have a local anaesthetic and can be put under general if necessary.

- An unscheduled, normal birth means your baby arrives when it's ready

- Many mums report a feeling of empowerment, despite the pain.

- Lower risk of respiratory problems for the baby. The pressure of passing through the birth canal helps to expel fluid in the baby's lungs naturally.

- There is evidence that as the baby passes out of the mum's body, it picks up 'good' bacteria, which helps protect it in the real world full of germs. Caesareans take place under sterile conditions so the baby does not receive this from its mum.

- Normal birth means mums won't have a scar - which can cause problems if you choose to give birth normally in the future.

- Normal birth allows your partner to be involved in the birth and feel part of the experience.

- Recovery time is shorter. Birth isn't a medical procedure so your body returns to normal quicker. In most cases this means getting home more quickly.

There are several reasons why the number of caesarean births in the UK has risen in the past few decades. There is the medical side, which includes the increasing age and weight of our first-time mums in the UK. Both of these factors increase the chance of pregnancy and birth complications that may mean a caesarean is necessary.

There are also less 'medical' reasons including the fact that caesareans can be scheduled, that they're seen as a pain-free route and that many women can feel that they're shorter and more predictable than vaginal birth.

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They're also seen as a way to maintain your pre-baby figure, as childbirth changes the shape of our bodies.

Fear of giving birth and concerns about the pain are also part of the increase, as women now have the option to choose a caesarean if they don't feel confident giving birth naturally.

In some cases, caesarean is necessary and a better option for both mum and baby so it's best to chat through your birth plan with your GP or health visitor.

Mums who do give birth by caesarean shouldn't feel they are any different from those who give birth normally. Presenter and mum of two Kirstie Allsopp last year defended mums who have caesareans, writing:

"The current obsession with how a baby is born and fed can lead to huge distress on the part of women who feel that they have failed to give birth “naturally” or are unable to breastfeed.

“We should all look to celebrate the safe delivery of a baby, and be thankful that we have easy access to a procedure which saves countless lives.”

Whatever you choose it has to be what's right for you and your baby. But after so many celebrities seemingly opting for caesarean by default, Catherine's decision to make public her birth plan helps to redress the balance and show women that there's no such thing as being 'too posh to push'.