Women are being scared out of normal birth because of reports highlighting the risks surrounding pregnancy, a midwives' leader says.
Recent guidance on obesity in pregnancy has alarmed many women, according to Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives.
Most women who are obese or overweight can still experience a normal birth - but need high quality care, Professor Warwick said.
"I believe that we must push back against a culture of fear. Safety is of course paramount but the key message remains that most women are capable of giving birth normally," she says.
The guidelines were issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recently and called on women to stop "eating for two" during pregnancy.
She said this was a good example of the kind of scare that led to women being afraid to trust themselves to home birth or even to midwives.
She said: "As we accumulate evidence about issues that can decrease the possibility of a woman having a completely normal pregnancy and birth there is a danger that only a very small number of women are left believing that childbirth for them can be a normal and fulfilling experience.
"The way that the risk of obesity during pregnancy is presented can exaggerate the dangers.
"If women start to think of their pregnancy as abnormal that in itself can result in them making choices about their birth that may in themselves decrease the risk of them having a normal birth."
She added: "Risk during childbirth is a very relative concept and unless it is explained with care the result can be that women are, albeit subtly, coerced and frightened into making choices they don’t want or need and which are potentially detrimental to their health and the health of their baby."