Hospitals have been refusing requests for caesarean sections during the Covid-19 outbreak despite official guidance and NHS England advice that they should go ahead.

Multiple NHS trusts have told women preparing to give birth since March that requests for a caesarean section will not be granted due to the viral pandemic.

It has led to accusations from the charity Birthrights that the coronavirus outbreak is being used as an excuse to promote an ideology that more women should have a natural birth.

During the coronavirus crisis some women have been forced to give birth alone due to bans on partners attending hospital. Hospitals changed their policy after new visiting rules were released.

Maria Booker, from Birthrights, told The Independent: “We continue to be contacted by women being told they cannot have a maternal request caesarean and we are concerned that in some places coronavirus is being used as an excuse to dictate to women how they should give birth, which contravenes Nice [the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidance.

“Women don’t choose caesarean births lightly. In the last few weeks we have been contacted by women who have heart conditions, pelvic issues, mental health conditions, and who have previously lost a baby who have all been denied caesareans.”

Official guidance from Nice says women should be offered a caesarean section where they insist it is what they want.

NHS England has warned hospitals they need to “make every effort” to avoid cancelling caesarean sections and work with neighbouring trusts to transfer women if necessary.

It said surgery should only be suspended in “extreme circumstances” where there is a shortage of obstetricians or anaesthetists.

In the UK, around one in four of all births are caesareans, including both emergency and pre-planned operations.