Are women s bodies less and less capable of birthing babies normally and without complications, or is there another reason c-section rates have been steadily rising in the United States for many years? If you are trying to conceive a baby, I am sure that you have thought about birth too, at least in passing. We all want to give our babies the best possible start in life, and birth itself is a big part of that.
I have known that many areas across the United States have had a c-section rate of round and about 32 percent for a while now, compared to 4.5 percent in 1965. I am also aware that the World Health Organization says optimal caesarian section rates are between five and ten percent. But I was stunned to see that hospitals in which midwife-assisted births are the norm, and states that have higher numbers of such hospitals, have as much as six percent fewer c-sections than those in which OBs are the most common choice. It is not a surprise, when you think about it, that trained surgeons are knife-happy.
After all, their education focused on every possible complication that can occur, and they watch for what can go wrong, rather than for what is normal. At the end of the day, surgery is their job one that they are normally very good at, and one that can save lives, when real complications do happen.
But does a medicalized approach to birth in general promote the best outcomes for mothers and babies? Evidence suggests otherwise, and c-sections carried out in non-medical emergencies are such an everyday occurrence that those who underwent them even gave them a name: unneceasarians. One scenario that is all too common is a labor induced with the drug Pitocin. The induction leads to horrific pains, because Pitocin contractions are much stronger and closer together than the real thing. In turn, this leads to an epidural, failure to progress (when a laboring woman dilates more slowly than the doctor wants her to), fetal distress, and then a c-section.
Refusal of most hospitals to allow vaginal births after c-sections (VBACs) means such women are likely stuck with surgical births for life. Similar scenarios are coming soon, in a hospital near you! Not at St Joseph s in Minnesota, where births are mainly handled by experienced midwives, though. There, most births take place without a problem, without intervention, and the c-section rate is a relatively modest 10 percent. I know this because I saw it in a news report. I don t know when normal, healthy births became news but what is clear here is that midwifery care gives you a significant advantage if you are hoping to avoid the slippery slope of interventions during labor that often ultimately ends in surgery. I ll be writing more about what midwives can do for you while trying to conceive, during pregnancy and at your birth next week. If you have any questions or comments in the meantime, please feel free to share them.