Most interventions during labour and birth are either unnecessary or downright harmful to mother and baby, according to a report presented at a recent Department of Health conference.
Launching the report, Professor Richard Cooke, consultant paediatrician at Liverpool University, said that many procedures, such as inducing labour, breaking the waters, and fetal monitoring "conferred little benefit and had some disadvantages".
In some hospitals well over half of births are induced, he said, whereas the more proper rate of induction would be under 10 per cent, as it is in good maternity units.
Indeed, a study of 1,300 births showed that breaking the mother's waters speeded up delivery by an insignificant few minutes. Professor Cooke blamed the growth in unnecessary operations performed on healthy women on obstetricians "looking for something to do" ."The doctors are faced by an awful lot of normal people and they tend to get put into the sickness mill," he said.