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  • Writer's pictureHampshire Birthing

Understanding 'Risk' in Pregnancy

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

'High Risk', 'Low Risk' -why do we insist on associating birth with being risky? Birth is a natural, physiological event that we humans and fellow mammals have been perfecting for millions of years. For some of us, there may indeed be a higher 'chance' of experiencing certain circumstances or factors which need to be taken into consideration during our pregnancy which may affect our labour and birth, and thankfully, in the 21st century, we are well equipped to manage these if and when they arise. But let's think 'Chance' over 'Risk'.


As it is, within our medical care, it is likely that we will have risk quoted to us, so it's important to understand risk and how to interpret what you are being told. Let's think of it like this:

Babs advises Lucy that the crime level in Alphatown is double that of Betatown whilst Lucy is trying to decide where to live. This statement may be true but it it is not terribly helpful to Lucy because Babs has quoted what is known as 'relative risk' which 'doubles' or 'increases by 100%'.

What Lucy needs to know is the 'absolute risk' and on digging deeper, Lucy discovers that while what Babs said was factually correct, the risk of being a victim of crime in Alphatown was in fact very small at 2 in 1,000 or 0.2%, the actual risk only increasing by 0.1% from Betatown where the risk was 1 in 1000 or 0.1%.

Furthermore, when Lucy dug deeper, she discovered that the reported crime in Alphatown was actually very minor comprising a case of shoplifting teenagers and an unreported scratched Porsche - unlikely to affect her, given her personal situation. By contrast, Betatown had recently suffered an armed bank robbery, something Babs had failed to disclose.

Babs could well put her friends off moving to Alphatown if they haven't done their own research and looked at the 'absolute risk' rather than just the 'relative risk'. Luckily Lucy understands the need to consider the 'absolute risk' and additional contributing factors.

Lucy really wanted to live in Alphatown and having done her research, weighing up the risks and benefits to her, she made the informed decision to live there.

Babs stayed in Betatown, which was where she felt comfortable. If she had done her own research she may have felt differently, she may not. Every decision is personal and to be respected.

Today Babs and Lucy have different views from their gardens but they remain firm friends.


So... if you find yourself being quoted relative risk in an appointment with your caregivers, make sure you ask for the absolute risk, the actual numbers, and the realistic chance of this being a situation YOU, as an individual, are likely to encounter. Perhaps you'll choose Route A, perhaps you'll opt for Route B, maybe there is a Route C. There is no right or wrong. This is YOUR birth and YOUR decision. Make it an informed one.


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