Top childbirth researcher joins effort to reduce caesarean births

22 August 2018

A prominent researcher from The University of Notre Dame Australia has joined an effort to dramatically reduce the number of medical interventions that occur during childbirth in Australia

A Sydney-based research team headed by Dr Kate Levett, a lecturer at Notre Dame’s School of Medicine, has been awarded a grant of $320,000 to examine the effectiveness of antenatal education in reducing the rate of caesarean births in Australia – one of the highest in the western world, after the United States.

“The current rate of caesarean births in Australia is around 34 per cent, more than twice the optimal rate recommended by the World Health Organization,” says Dr Levett.  “WHO recommends a caesarean rate of between 10 and 15 per cent as having the greatest health benefits for women and babies.

“Apart from the burden on the health system, such interventions have a potentially negative impact on the health and wellbeing of women and their babies. In many cases such procedures may be avoided thanks to better education and alternative pain management options. When women are adequately prepared through antenatal education they are less likely to go down this cascade of medical interventions.”

Dr Levett will lead a team from Notre Dame and Western Sydney University's School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Midwifery and NICM Health Research Institute.

The new project, part of an $18 million commitment by the Turnbull government to improve the health of Australian women, builds on Dr Levett’s PhD research which found that an effective childbirth education program could reduce caesareans in Australia by 120,000 each year, saving the healthcare system up to $97 million annually.

“Our previous study showed that the Complementary Therapies for Labour and Birth Program significantly reduced epidural use, caesarean sections, as well as reducing a range of other clinical interventions that have important adverse consequences if overused in healthy women and babies,” Dr Levett says.

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