We live in an extremely risk adverse society and lots of the advice you’ll be given in pregnancy is “to reduce the risk of….”

To reduce the risk of infection.

To reduce the risk of listeria.

To reduce the risk of bleeding.

To reduce the risk of uterine rupture.

To reduce the chance of cesarean etc. etc.

You can finish this sentence in many ways and if you’re pregnant, it’s a sentence you’ve more than likely heard once, if not more times, recently.

But what does it actually mean when you’re told that you’re at an increased risk of something?

Clever Megan over from Positively Birthing used the analogy of a black car and a risk of having an accident. I’m going to use the same example as it makes so much sense. Here goes…

You’re at an increased risk of having a car accident driving in a black car. You’re actually TWICE as likely to have an accident if you drive a black car.

Sounds a lot right? Makes you want to avoid driving a black car.

This is a relative risk and not the best way to understand the actual risk.

Try it this way…

0.5% of people have a car accident when driving a black car, compared to 0.25% of those driving any other colour.

This is an absolute risk and may make you reconsider buying the black car.
When you look at the actual facts and figures to the so called risk, it may not seem much of a risk at all.

Actual figures should be how all of your information is given to you when pregnant as it means that you can decide what is best for you with actual figures. Being told that your risk has increased always sounds a lot more scary than it usually is.

Another useful thing to know is who were those people driving the black car. Was it their first car accident? Did they have a raised BMI? Did they have drugs whilst driving the car? What was their age? If this description isn’t similar to you then your risk of driving the black car will be different again.

Lastly, it’s also good to know what were the outcomes of these car accidents and how would these outcomes effect YOU and your life? Risk is subjective from person to person. One persons risk of a caesarean is another persons first choice.

So even though you may fall into a category that may increase your chances of an intervention happening, you still can’t really say that the risk of that intervention for you is HIGH. It may be higher than others but for lots of things it’s still more than likely going to be a very small risk.

Risk is not just about statistics and numbers it’s about a women’s experiences, her perceptions, thoughts and beliefs. Risk is subjective. Sticking to the car example. If someone has had a family member who has had a car accident in a black car. That risk is going to be perceived a lot higher than someone who has maybe never seen a black car before. One woman’s risk of a cesarean is another woman’s first choice.


So next time you are given a choice during your pregnancy to avoid a certain risk. This could be having a booked caesarean to avoid the risk of something. Ask why? Ask for your absolute risks so that you can make a fully informed choice.