Born in the USA – Cesarean Section in America
If you don’t already know this, you need to. One of every three women who give birth in the hospital in America today will be given a cesarean section. Read that again. Historically only about 5% of women actually need to have a C-section. “According to the World Health Organization (WHO), anytime a country’s cesarean section rate rises above 15%, the dangers of C-section surgery outweigh the life-saving benefits it is supposed to provide.”[i] The Netherlands C-section rate in 2002 was just 13.5%.[ii] In the 1980’s, when the C-section rate rose above 15% for the first time in the US, maternity activists were up in arms saying that any doctor whose C-section rate was above 5% was endangering women’s and children’s lives. Today, any doctor whose C-section rate is below 15% is considered to have women’s best interest at heart. There are many whose C-section rates are over 40%.
Cesarean section is currently the most commonly performed major surgery in the US. Why is this? For three reasons, really. One, some doctors just want to get home for dinner. (Can you blame them when they schedule 40 births a month?) Two, because of our litigious society. If a doctor gets sued for negligence during the delivery of a baby and he or she has performed a C-section, the “evidence” is pretty clear that he or she did everything in his or her power, including performing major surgery, in order that lives might be saved. The sad thing is that more lives are actually lost as a result of this surgery. Three, OBGYNs are surgeons. Surgery is what they are trained to do, and they make quite a bit more money when they do it. They are not trained to facilitate natural childbirth.
During a vaginal delivery, the hormonal symphony that allowed you to become pregnant and kept you that way comes to its awesome climax. Hormonal communication between fetus and mom is what causes labor to begin. Oxytocin rushes in and starts contractions. I call it a “hormonal symphony” because that’s the best way I can describe it. Everything is so perfect, from the delivery of the child and the placenta, to the milk coming in and the postpartum contractions that heal the uterus. The benefits of this symphony to mother and child are still little known, but if you deliver by C-section, you just don’t get them.
Enough sources are ripping up C-sections right now. See Mothering Magazine’s September – October 2007 issue or The Business of Being Born for more. The Mothering article is phenomenal – including many statistics on safety, and an illustrated play by play of an actual cesarean, which you really should check out if you’re considering an elective cesarean birth. My purpose isn’t to tear the birth industry a new one, it’s to educate women about birth options. I’m so grateful that we live in the best country in the world, especially when it comes to western surgery and diagnostics. If you’re one of the 5% of women who truly need a cesarean birth, hallelujah that you’re here and probably 5-10 minutes from a hospital where competent men and women are there to assist you at any hour, every day. Amen.
[i] Wendy Ponte, “Cesarean Birth in a Culture of Fear,” Mothering Magazine, September-October 2007,50.