Friday, 23 February 2007

Schools and Caesareans?

Emerged from four busy shifts on the delivery suite. What happened nine months ago? Was it the World Cup or a power cut or maybe it was the excellent spring weather we experienced in 2006, well whatever it was, it caused a surge in activity in the production of lots of healthy babies being born. Came home to read the paper after one exceptionally busy shift to read that women are “timing their caesareans to win school places”. (The Sunday Times, February 18th 2007). Whatever next? Perhaps they should be timing the conception of the baby to fit in with starting the school year when they are just four years old. i.e. having a baby in August or better still perhaps we could suggest to prospective parents that only so many are allowed to conceive in certain months to spread the load more evenly among maternity units across the country.
Actually, I am surprised that Tony Blair and his government have not suggested this as a way of making maternity services more economic and efficient. If so many babies were allowed to be delivered a month, it would save on money spent on resources, staff and so on and so forth.

Anyway, I digress. Caesarean sections to win school places. This article does not directly state that women are deliberately choosing c.sections to time the arrival of their babies but it does imply that maybe they are. If this is the case, who is giving their support to this decision and are the women fully informed of the risks they are taking in having an unnecessary abdominal operation (because this is what a c.section is). If a c.section is necessary to save the life of the baby or the woman or to prevent a reoccurrence of a previous traumatic delivery then this is fully justified and supported but just to have a c.section so the timing of the birth of a baby can secure a place in an exclusive is monstrous. Apart from the risks, such as infection, deep vein thrombosis, increased risk of haemorrhage, future health problems in the woman’s later life and an increase in the infertility rate after a c.section, c.section can be a risky business for a baby as well with the fact that the baby’s lungs are not automatically squeezed as they would be during a vaginal birth thus resulting in the baby inhaling fluid on to their lungs and resulting in a possible pneumonia.

The other dilemma with c.sections to secure school places is the one of cost to the NHS which is already groaning under the weight of having to perform necessary life saving surgery and treatments to adults and children with disease. The cost of an unnecessary c.section to the NHS is somewhere in the region of £2000-£3000 as opposed to the cost for a normal vaginal birth which is somewhere in the region of £200-£300. Hopefully, the parents who can afford to send their children to the exclusive prep schools could be persuaded to pay for their elective c.sections, unless, of course, they are already doing so.

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