Skip to main content
Back to news homepage

RCOG statement on new World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on caesarean section

News 16 April 2015

The RCOG has reiterated its support for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) guidance on elective caesarean section.

This follows media coverage on 10 and 11 April 2015, in the Guardian, Herald, Telegraph, Daily Mail, Yahoo, Time and news agencies all over the world, about the new WHO guidelines, which state that caesarean sections should only be used for medical reasons. The WHO guidelines have been issued in response to the growing caesarean section rates in some countries.

In additional media coverage, the Independent describes one reporter’s experience of a caesarean section and natural birth; the Daily Mail and Telegraph have the story of a Jehovah’s Witness who died after refusing a caesarean; and the Mail also reports a rising risk of infection and death during childbirth due to the high number of caesarean operations.

Current NICE guidelines state that pregnant women should be offered evidence-based information to support decision-making on the method of childbirth during the ante-natal period. This should include information about the risks and benefits of caesarean section; the situations when caesarean sections are recommended, such as presumed fetal compromise, 'failure to progress' in labour and breech presentation; what the procedure involves; and the implications for future pregnancies and birth after caesarean section.

Professor Alan Cameron, RCOG Vice President (Clinical Quality) says: “The RCOG agrees that caesarean section is a major operation, which in general should be reserved for those mothers or babies who have a medical indication.

“However, in line with NICE guidance in the UK, we also believe that if a woman requests a caesarean section, she should be informed of all the risks and benefits of the procedure and, if appropriate, be given the support of a counsellor or psychologist. If she remains certain that caesarean section is the right option for her, then that choice should be fully respected.”