Aboriginal mother. © nopathology.com
A Vietnamese proverb runs, “Birth is the door of the tomb.” A mother and her baby are most vulnerable during childbirth. The magic of modern medicine has made childbirth a relatively safe procedure in most developed countries, but many continue to take it for granted.
Childbirth is no picnic. It can be a painful, messy, and stressful procedure. Children and their mothers in many sub-Saharan African countries are still at a high risk of death from childbirth complications. Many Central and Southeast Asian countries, as well as some Latin American countries, also face such problems. One of the biggest reasons for this is the lack of vitally important medical interventions, specifically about caesarean sections (when the mother’s womb is cut through to free the child).
And now the completely counterintuitive part: the C-section rate worldwide is at alarmingly high levels! Alarmingly? Aren’t C-sections a good thing? Yes, and no. Read through to the end to find out more.
The global rate of C-sections has tripled in the past 30 years to 21%. In Europe, the rates vary by country, which might have something to do with healthcare plans. But in Latin America, things have gone out of control. WHO recommends a C-section rate of 10% to 15% (that is, only when medically necessary). Meanwhile, doctors in the Dominican Republic cut open their pregnant clients at a staggering rate of 58%, the highest in the world. The rate is 85% in Brazilian private hospitals. Why? The reasons range from emotional to socio-economic in nature.
Himba tribe (woman with baby). © Ralph Kränzlein
Gabriela Ramírez, a Mexican woman who had heard horror stories from her mother about her childbirth experiences decided to have a C-section when delivering her first child, thinking it would be less painful (Global Voices, 2014). Unfortunately, the operation turned out to be a traumatic experience. Like her, almost half of all women in Mexico, regardless of social class, end up on the operating table, partly due to ignorance and partly due to pressure from doctors.
“In Brazil, there’s a belief that normal childbirth is something the poor do,” said the president of the Brazilian Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Associations. Doctors save time and earn more cash when performing C-sections. The practice has become a reckless money-making machine.
One of the key points in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 3 – Good Health and Well-being – is to provide better childbirth education, especially in developing countries. C-sections aren’t harmless. This procedure can save lives when vaginal birth leads to complications. However, it has its downsides. Medical researchers have suggested that children born by C-section are prone to respiratory disease, obesity and diabetes, among other health issues (WHO, 2018).
“The health sector has not concerned itself with creating campaigns that inform mothers about the implications of a Caesarean,” says Xaviera Cabada from The Power of the Consumer, a Mexican civil organization (Global Voices, 2014). Following UN SDG 4 – Quality Education – ICDO wishes to help bring the attention of the general public to the potential dangers of both home births as well as unnecessary C-sections, among other significant issues.
Childbirth is a question that concerns each one of us. Knowledge about the different methods of delivery and associated risks needs to be accessible to every parent in the world. Please spread this very important message to your friends and family; it will help them make informed decisions about childbirth, save on medical bills, and preserve lives.