Irish maternity system 'is like a production line'
The need for an overhaul of the "over-medicalised" system of care in Irish maternity services has been supported by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
The support is outlined in the latest report of the watchdog and it follows calls by a midwives' lobby here.
The midwives want to reduce the practice of speeding up labour and end what they see as the "production line" which can leave women delivering babies within eight hours of being admitted to hospital.
Philomena Canning, chair of Midwives for Choice in Ireland, said: "This is the second time Ireland's industrialised system of maternity care has been criticised by an international body.
"We strongly support the international calls for maternity care that respects the needs and choices of individual women."
Women should have access to maternity and delivery services without time pressure or being exposed to artificial methods of speeding up birth, she said.
"During Ireland's human rights examination in February this year in Geneva, the UN's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women called on the Government to ensure that women can access maternity services that do not use artificial methods to accelerate labour and that respect the normal birth process," she said.
"It described Ireland's system of maternity care as one that transformed the most important experience of a lifetime for women and their partners into a production-line process."
Lobby groups for a change in the way maternity services are delivered here have pointed to the fourfold in increase in the rate of caesarean sections in the past 30 years.
A study by the ESRI showed these births have risen from 7pc in 1984 to 13pc in 1993 and stood at 30pc by 2014.
The rise, which is due to a complex set of reasons, has helped lower the death rate among mothers and children in childbirth.
But it is acknowledged that more efforts need to be made in several hospitals to reduce the rate.
A HSE report showed that 35pc of first-time mothers in Cork University Maternity Hospital, University College Hospital Galway and Waterford Regional Hospital had an instrumental delivery with forceps or vacuum.
Women have identified priorities for their childbirth experiences as: the availability of pain relief; partnership with the midwife; and individualised care.
A survey of midwives in 2014 found there were 1,849 midwives employed in maternity services. This meant the ratio of one midwife to 38 births, based on a total of 70,879 births at the time. The figures showed that around 554 midwives were needed.
Ms Canning also said the organisation also "fully endorses the Commissioner's concerns about the negative impact of the Eighth Amendment on the human rights of all women throughout pregnancy and childbirth, and we share his hope that this legislation will soon be repealed".
"Bodily integrity is a legal, constitutional and human right in Ireland that is flouted on a daily basis in our labour wards," she added.