Our maternal request caesarean campaign


Enquiries about the right to a maternal request caesarean are the no1 reason for women contacting our advice service (you can find our factsheet here and find out more about our advice service here). Last year we noticed that a small but increasing number of women were telling us that Trusts were informing women when booking into care that the Trust did not offer maternal request caesarean. Such a policy is not in line with NICE Guidance, and if applied in a blanket way, is a violation of a Trust’s legal duty to give personalised care.

Since then we have written to all Trusts where women have notified us about a current blanket policy on maternal request caesarean. But we have also conducted a nationwide Freedom of Information campaign, writing to every Trust/Board in the UK and every CCG in England, to find out more about how a request for a caesarean with no medical, obstetric or psychological indication is handled in practice. We look forward to publishing these results shortly. We will be using these results to spark a national conversation about what best practice looks like and how we can ensure women making this request are treated with respect and receive the individualised care they deserve.

In addition we are looking at all options to challenge Trusts who are, in our view, failing to fulfil their legal obligations to pregnant women by having a blanket policy of not offering maternal request caesareans, especially where this is preventing women from having an open and supportive discussion about all reasonable options, as required by the Montgomery vs Lanarkshire judgement (2015). If you would like to tell us about your experience, or would like some advice about this issue please contact


Our Dignity Campaign

A woman’s relationship with her maternity providers is vitally important. Not only are these encounters the vehicle for essential lifesaving health services, but women’s experiences with caregivers can empower and comfort or inflict lasting damage and emotional trauma.’ White Ribbon Alliance, Respectful Maternity Care, 2011

As the White Ribbon Alliance has found, there is increasing evidence that paints a disturbing picture of disrespect in maternity systems in wealthy nations, including the UK. While our maternity system generally ensures safe outcomes for mothers and babies, stories of disrespect in childbirth – ranging from procedures performed without consent to verbal abuse and bullying – are worryingly common. Women’s autonomy in childbirth – choices about where, how and with whom they give birth – are often limiteMumsnet-landscaped with lasting impact for mother and baby.

Our Dignity Survey found that many women in the UK did not receive respectful care or choice in childbirth. Read about the results here.

The basic principles of respectful treatment are sometimes neglected in hospitals – a problem highlighted in the recent NHS Mid Staffordshire Trust report. Since Birthrights launched in January 2013, many women have sought our advice about making a complaint about disrespectful treatment or obtaining legal redress. We know there are serious and systemic issues with the respectful treatment of women in childbirth. The Dignity Campaign gives a voice to women’s dignity and rights and will propose practical solutions that we hope will improve care for women in the UK.

Our first step in the Campaign is the Dignity Forum to be held on 16 October 2013. We will explore what dignity means for women and the challenges that exist to making it a reality.

Read our Birthrights Projects and Perspectives about inspiring dignity-respecting initiatives in maternity care.