"I HAVE had private health insurance since I was 20 just so I could have a caesarean. All my friends have had caesareans," my 34-year-old hairdresser, Frida tells me. "
Even my doctor said I wouldn't be able to cope with a natural birth."
Frida is one of an increasing number of Australian women too scared to birth naturally with the country's caesarean rates continuing to climb and exceed World Health Organisation guidelines of 10 to 20 percent.
According to Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists President, Professor Stephen Robson, Australia currently has a caesarean rate of 32 percent.
"Vaginal birth rates are declining but for important reasons. A proportion of women are apprehensive of natural birth," he said.
"There have also been changes in the age of women having babies, particularly older women. The state of health of women has also changed with a huge increase in obesity. A third of women having a baby now are overweight or obese," Professor Robson said.
However, Professor of Midwifery and spokesperson for the Australian College of Midwives, Hannah Dahlen disagrees and believes the fear women may feel arises from the health professionals.
"The care provider and their philosophy has a profound impact on outcomes." We have the most highly trained surgeons looking after well women," she said.
"If you want a babysitter you don't employ a neurosurgeon just in case the child is going to get a bump on their heads," Professor Dahlen said. "We have got issues like obesity, but overall women are healthier than they have ever been," she said.
Professor Robson said changes in both doctors' and women's approach to birth have occurred over the last 25 years with both less keen to take risks. He blames a lot of fear women feel on social media, giving women access to information that they wouldn't previously have had, and making it confusing for them. He said the key to addressing fear women may have was to talk to their carer.
"Have a good relationship with your carer and talk through concerns with them rather than relying on information from friends and social media," Professor Robson said.
Professor Dahlen however says health professionals are the source of the negativity and scaremongering and describes it as a form of abuse.
"It is to get women to do what we want so we can pump them through a factory. Women need to stand up and say you do not have the right to take away our power," Professor Dahlen said.
She believes a model similar to that of European countries with continuity of care led by midwives is the answer with 95% of women at the midwifery-led birth practice she runs achieving a vaginal birth.
So, does the way a baby is born really matter?
According to Professor Dahlen it definitely does. "The way babies are born and mothered is one of the most fundamental shapers of society today. The psychological impact of someone invading your body (through a Caesarean section) is not something you understand until it happens," she said.
Professor Dahlen said we still don't fully understand the physiological benefits of a natural, drug-free birth.
"Hormones are switching on and off critical genes and millions of microbiomes are being transferred to the baby. The way a baby is born is shaping the future health of the baby. Babies born by caesarean are more likely to have diabetes, obesity and autoimmune diseases," she said.
"We need to invest in birth as the very first preventative step we take in health," Professor Dahlen said.
A whopping 76% of those women having vaginal births are opting for pain relief which also impacts on the baby as well as the mother and her experience of the birth according to Professor Dahlen.
She said women who have epidurals report higher rates of dissatisfaction with their births after five years as well as a stronger association of pain with the birth.
"Natural labour takes you through the highs and lows and wipes out that negative memory of the pain," Professor Dahlen said.
This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.