Earlier this summer women in Brazil took to the streets demanding better maternity care options. In that country about half of all births are via c-section, that number jumps to 82% when you look at women with private insurance.
The c-section has become the norm for birth. But not every women is happy about this– it can be hard to try for a non-medical birth when the culture is so surgery-inclined. So they protested and achieved some of their goals which included the right to have a doula present for labor.
This Labor Day women all over America will join in the “National Rally for Change,” a rally for improvements to our current maternity care system. The c-section rate here is 33.5%– about a third of all babies born are born via c-section.
Once the c-section rate eclipses a certain number, we start to see more harm done than good. New risks– infection, premature birth, re-hospitalization– are introduced.
The reasons for so many c-sections are complex but one large part of the situation is that birth is heavily medically managed in many US hospitals. While inducing labor with synthetic hormones and using electronic fetal monitoring can be incredibly valuable at times, routine or excessive use of these interventions (and others) can disrupt a normal process and make surgery necessary. Research indicates that many c-sections could have been avoided if hospital practices were more influenced by good evidence than the wording of malpractice laws. Thus the rally. It’s taking place in many, many states– look here to see if there’s one in your home town. I spoke with one of the coordinators, who is also a labor support doula, Jennifer Parmalee.
“The first thing people should know is that the U.S. outspends every country in the world for maternity care, and we are still ranked #49 for maternal mortality rates. Amnesty International has reported that ‘women in the US face a greater risk of maternal death than nearly all European countries including Canada and several counties in Asia and the Midlle East. This is a huge problem!”
The press release emphasizes that this is not a protest but a rally for better births, options, education and awareness.
“The National Rally for Change is to encourage and insist that all maternal healthcare providers practice evidence-based care. On average it takes 20 years for proven research to become practice. For the sake of mothers and babies everywhere, we can’t wait 20 years. The long-term effects of unnecessary inductions and cesareans are just starting to be realized. This matters for all people… ”
I have a laundry list of things I’d like to see change in American labor and delivery wards. I hope this rally is effective and people beyond the natural birth community can see how things like informed consent and evidence-based care are important health care issues for women, babies and families. They say that the consumer knows best. So maybe if enough consumers of maternity care get pissed off… we’ll see some changes in hospitals.
The rally is on Monday, September 3rd between 10am- noon in 50 cities across the country.
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