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Too posh to push? Britain looks at making C-sections free for all

Pregnant women in Britain may soon be free to choose to give birth by C-section and have the government pay for it thanks to new rules critics say indulge women who are "too posh to push."

The country's National Health Service currently covers the cost of C-sections only when the mother or baby's health would be jeopardized by a vaginal birth. But under new rules put forward by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the government would also pick up the tab for women "with no identifiable reason" for undergoing the procedure, the Associated Press reports.

"In general, a C-section is a safe operation, especially when performed as a planned procedure," the new guidelines state.

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Despite criticism that the new rules simply cater to women who would rather not undergo the pain of a natural delivery, proponents of the change say women deserve the choice.

"It's about time women who have no desire to view labour as a rite of passage into motherhood be able to choose how they want to have their baby," Pauline Hull, who has two children and runs the website Elective Cesarean, told the AP. "The important thing to me was meeting my baby, not the experience of labour."

Approximately 25 per cent of women in the U.K. have C-sections. Among the ranks of C-section moms are Madonna and former Spice Girl Victoria "Posh" Beckham (the celebrity propensity for the surgical birth helped create the "too posh to push" criticism). But the number has swelled in recent years in large part because problems such as obesity and diabetes increase the likelihood a woman will deliver by C-section, doctors say.

A 2008 report shows that approximately one in four children is born by C-section in Canada.

While the numbers of women having C-sections are increasing, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists still sides with natural birth, all things being equal.

"As long as it's safe for both mother and baby, a vaginal birth is absolutely the best way for anyone to deliver," a spokesperson for the College told the AP, adding that the physical stress of labour helps baby's lungs adapt better to breathing after they are born.

Do you think these new British rules are a moment of female empowerment or female laziness? Should government pay for women to have the choice between a C-section and a natural birth?

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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