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 U.S. were born by C-section, accounting for 32.3 percent 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).
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 percent since 1996. Cesarean birth is being overused, and VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is being grossly underused, at about 8 percent, because many hospitals are outlawing VBACs. Because of bans on VBACs, women have been denied access in over 40 percent 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.
- "Ina May's Guide to Child Birth" by Ina May Gaskin
- "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth" by Henci Goer
- "Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience" by Ricki Lake and Abbi Epstein
- International Cesarean Awareness Network
- VBAC Facts
- The Unnecesarean
- Cesarean Scar - "a safe space in which to allow your scar to share its story"
- What Every Pregnant Woman Needs to Know about Cesarean Section by Childbirth Connection
- Let Them Eat Cake - a guide to post Cesarean celebrating - From 2008 through 2010 Jennifer McNichols created and photographed a series of handmade and hand-decorated cakes and accompanying installation pieces exploring the feelings experienced by many women who suffer for the convenience of others through unnecessary and unplanned surgical childbirth. In so doing she hopes to give form to the emotional landscape inhabited by many such women in solitude and silence while those around them celebrate, and to help those who have difficulty relating to post-Cesarean mothers explore the emotions felt by women they know and love.