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While caesarean deliveries are no doubt essential at times, are c-sections in India being foisted upon women for other reasons?
After I had my elder daughter, the first thing friends and relatives in India asked me was, “Normal or caesarean?”
“Normal,” I would reply, feeling that the question was intrusive. How else would I give birth? If I had had a caesarean, I would have mentioned it, right?
Granted, caesarean or c-sections as they are commonly called, do happen, though typically the rates are lower than that of normal deliveries – or so I thought. According to The World Health Organization, c-sections should only be performed if either the baby’s or the mother’s life is in mortal peril.
As this option should be a last resort during delivery, I found it very, very odd that almost every friend that I had in India, and even some relatives had all had c-sections. I was intrigued. I then googled “c-sections in Kerala” and two articles came up, one from The Hindu in 2005 (C-sections: Concern Over Health Hazards), and the other from Global Issues in 2011 (INDIA: Unnecessary C-Sections Violate Women’s Rights).
They both essentially stated the same thing: the rate of c-sections in Kerala was higher than the national average, around 30%, compared to 20% nationwide. According to the WHO, the c-section rate should not reasonably exceed 10-12% “in any region.”
The articles state that greed on the part of both hospitals and doctors alike contribute to these high rates. Doctors who perform an abnormally high number of c-sections do so since surgeries will bring in more money than normal deliveries. More c-sections can also be scheduled and performed, rather than waiting for a woman in labor to give birth in her own time, hence even more money. Plus, as they are scheduled procedures, doctors can fit them around their own personal plans, weekends, and vacations.
In order to convince perfectly healthy women to opt for elective c-sections before their due date, doctors tell them about the so-called benefits of the surgery: no labor pain, quick procedure and higher “safety” when compared to normal delivery.
What women are not told about are the serious risks: infection, damage to the uterus and bladder, higher maternal mortality rate (compared to normal delivery), complications in future pregnancies, and possible hysterectomy later in life.
What women are not told about are the serious risks: infection, damage to the uterus and bladder, higher maternal mortality rate (compared to normal delivery)…
Here in the US, I was strongly urged by my doctor to take a childbirth class late into my first pregnancy. The nurse who taught the 4-hour class took us through all the parts of early and active labour, pain management, recovery, and what our bodies and babies would most likely be doing the entire time.
I thought I would be scared to attend such a class, but it actually assuaged many of my fears and answered many questions. All the women there were with their partners, who were also active participants in the discussion, which allowed us to ask anything with no judgment.
When I went into labor, yes, I was in a world of pain. But knowing what was happening, and what the nurses were talking about, and what all the strange, beeping machines were doing around me, made all the difference. I felt as though I had some power over my baby’s birth. Did I mention my husband and mother were standing on either side of my bed the entire time?
My friend who had the c-section with her eldest could not attend such training. She didn’t know exactly what was happening, except that the baby was coming and it hurt a lot. When she was admitted to the hospital, her family members had to stay outside, while she was sent in alone. She was in such a high state of anxiety that the doctor told her she wasn’t dilated enough and to go to surgery right away.
My friend was not given time to think, plan, or deliberate this option. It was decided, and it just happened. Everything went smoothly enough, but her power over her own body was taken away, possibly unnecessarily.
Who knows what the doctor’s motive may have been? Had the patient been given enough time for labour, to give normal delivery a chance? Didn’t the doctor know that it’s standard for first-time labor and deliveries to take upwards of 24 hours?
When an otherwise healthy expectant mother can educate herself on what is happening during pregnancy and what will happen in the delivery room, and most importantly, what a major surgery like a c-section may cost her in both the short- and long-term, she will finally be able to look her doctor in the eye and say No to using my body and my baby to put more money in your pocket to finance your vacation. Let’s say no to elective caesarean section.
Baby’s feet in mother’s hand image via Shutterstock
Jen has always enjoyed visual communications and writing ever since her school spelling bee days.
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