Cesarean Awareness Month: Why is it so hard to get a vaginal birth?

April is Cesarean Awareness Month. You may wonder why an entire month needs to be devoted for raising awareness about c-sections. Here’s why. The c-section rate in the United States is on the rise at an alarming rate. It’s estimated that in 2008 over 1.3 million babies in the US were born by c-section, accounting for 32.3% of all births. It also marks the 12th consecutive year the Cesarean birth rate has risen, despite a number of medical organizations — including The World Health Organization (WHO) and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) — urging medical care providers to work on lowering the Cesarean birth rates and increase access to Vaginal Birth after Cesarean (VBAC).

Cesarean Awareness Month - April

My Gentle Birthing Blog discusses that while VBAC is often suggested as an option to a woman who has had a c-section, in reality, VBACs are hard to come by due to the fact that many hospitals no longer allow them.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the C-section rate in the United States has risen 53% since 1996. Cesarean birth is being overused, and VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is being grossly underused, at about 8%, because many hospitals are outlawing VBACs. Because of bans on VBACs, women have been denied access in over 40% of hospitals in the United States. The National Institutes of Health has found that VBACs are reasonably safe for women who had a previous cesarean birth and are low risk for uterine rupture.

Andrea Owen says, “Fighting for my own VBAC has changed my life. I don’t use that term very often, only when I truly mean it. It opened my eyes up to the world of American obstetrics, and how far we’ve come away from birth as a natural process. In my opinion, we’ve shoved a big, fat middle finger in Mother Nature’s face.”

And in the sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction category, the Keyboard Revolutionary wants to know how it is that “a woman can waltz in off the street, say she’s pregnant and wants a Cesarean, and everyone leaps to her command….yet a woman who IS pregnant has to jump through hoops and fight tooth and nail just to give birth vaginally?” Yep, in 2008 in Fayetteville, NC, a woman who was NOT even pregnant was given a c-section.

So how can a woman avoid a c-section in the first place? Knowledge is power. Here is a list of Five Essential Questions to ask your care provider. My Gentle Birthing Blog also has a list of the risks with cesarean birth as well as a list that might help you avoid having your first c-section.

On Live Your Ideal Life guest blogger Pamela Candelaria who writes over at Natural Birth for Normal Women discusses the risks of a c-section as described on a typical consent form and says, “what isn’t on the form may be surprising.”

Heather of A Mama’s Blog provides a lot of information about The Reality of C-sections.

And Breastfeeding Moms Unite posted What to Expect of Your Body after a C-section.

Bellies and Babies has a great round up of posts in honor of Cesarean Awareness Month.

There is one victory worth celebrating regarding Cesarean birth and women’s health in general. Thanks to the Health Care Reform, c-sections, giving birth and domestic violence can no longer be considered pre-existing conditions and used to deny insurance coverage. It’s a step in the right direction, but so much more needs to be done to lower the c-section rates and allow women access to VBACs, so that they don’t have to travel 350 miles just to have a vaginal birth. And that’s why an entire month is needed to raise awareness about cesarean sections.

Additional resources:

Photo credit: Flickr – Grendellion

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Live c-section on the Today Show

Thanks to ICANtweets I learned that the Today Show aired a live Cesarean section from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston as part of the “Today Goes Inside the OR” series. A healthy 10 pound baby boy was born via scheduled c-section to Carrie and Josh Johnson. According the The Today Show’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman, they elected a c-section because babies “run big” in the parents’ families and Carrie was “past her due date.” Dr. Snyderman adds, “And those are two indications that a Cesarean section is a lot safer than having a vaginal delivery.”

A lot safer? Really? You might want to weigh the risks for yourself.

Photo courtesy: tifhermon (Flickr)
Photo courtesy: tifhermon (Flickr)

Here’s the link to watch the Today Show c-section video

I found it hard to watch how the baby was handled and the way mom seemed to be left out of the process. Why can’t they clean up the baby where mom can see?

I also found a few other things quite disturbing.

At one point in the video, the doctor doing the c-section comments to Dr. Nancy that one reason for having a c-section is if the mom has had a c-section before. Then when asked if this mom gets pregnant again and has a “normal size” baby if she can have a vaginal delivery? The doctor responds, “absolutely, absolutely.”

That sounds like she’s giving mixed signals to me. Not to mention that many doctors and hospitals no longer allow vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) due to insurance costs. I left a message with Beth Israel hospital to find out what their policy is re: VBACs. I’ll update if I hear back. Joy Szabo had to move 350 miles from home to have her VBAC. And some women are being denied insurance after having a c-section.

After the baby was weighed (10 lbs.), Today Show co-anchor Meredith Vieira commented: “They chose the right way to deliver that’s sure by section.”

Dr. Nancy Snyderman agreed: “They sure did.”

So having a larger baby vaginally is the wrong way to have a baby? I strongly disagree. I think so would Justine who had her 11 lb. son at home on Jan. 6. And Kara who gave birth to an almost 10 lb baby vaginally. And Cathy who describes herself as petite and said both of her boys weighed 9 lbs. 4 oz. at birth. And Arwyn who said, “At home in the water was the right way to “deliver” my 10lb 6oz baby!”

What did you think about all of this?
Email the Today Show your thoughts at: TODAY@nbcuni.com

Read more about my reaction to the live c-section.

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