What I found during my research astounded me. What I concluded, however, gives me hope. Now if I can only make my voice heard far enough to make a difference. Please pass this on to others you know. With Allah's help it may just reach the people who have the power to effect change!
I hope you enjoy reading this article. Please let me know if you have a story idea or would like to share your birth story. Now on to the article...Saudi Cesarean Sections...
My research for birth statistics in Saudi Arabia led me to a report with some alarming data. (Ba'aqeel HS. Cesarean delivery rates in Saudi Arabia: A ten year review. Ann Saudi Med 2009;29:179-83)
Some of the quotes from that report include:
- "Cesarean delivery (CD) is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in Saudi Arabia."
- "A significant increase of more than 80% in the CD [cesarean delivery] rate was observed from 1997 to 2006."
- "A national strategy to reduce the CD [cesarean delivery] rate is needed..." (Remember this comment.)
Delving deeper I found that the cesarean delivery rate in 2006 was at 19.1%. Although this is lower than the American average, it is still above the commonly known recommendation by the World Health Organization that caesarean deliveries should not exceed 10–15%.
Anytime I discuss cesarean deliveries I must first give credit to the procedure and the skilled doctors who perform them when there is a health or life threat to the mother or baby. But I also have to wonder how many of those surgeries were really necessary?
I feel compelled to list some of the increased risks associated with the cesarean delivery:
- longer, more expensive hospital stays
- minor or major allergic reaction to anesthetic (mother or baby)
- increased infections
- blood clots
- need for blood transfusion
- resulting hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus)
- damage to the bladder or other internal organs
- more likelihood of prematurity of the infant (cesareans done based on faulty due dates)
- infant respiratory problems
- higher rate of maternal or neonatal death
I read a commentary in the October issue of Ob/Gyn News titled: The Cesarean Section: A View From the Trenches, written by Dr. David M. Priver, M.D. This article had some interesting things to say about why the cesarean rates have increased, from the practitioner's perspective. I have paraphrased his theories for you here:
- Increased litigation against doctors has caused them to err on the side of caution by taking control of the birth surgically, rather than letting nature take its course
- Impatience on the part of the doctor or mother prior to the onset of labor (resulting in induced labor which increases risk of cesarean, or elective cesarean from the start)
- Impatience on the part of the doctor or mother during labor (resulting in the attempt to speed labor with drugs which also increases risk of cesarean, or elective cesarean after a short trial of labor)
- Repeat cesareans without first attempting a vaginal birth after a cesarean was performed for a prior birth (by doctor or mother's choice)
- Automatic cesarean for breech babies (the skill of delivering breech babies vaginally is becoming a lost "art')
In the article Why Are Nearly a Third of Childbirths Cesareans?, an article from my new favorite blogging doctor, Dr. Mercola, says the following:
- "...this massive increase in the CS [cesarean section] rate has not improved obstetrical outcomes...mothers and newborns have not benefited from more CS [cesaean sections]..."
- "Obstetricians are specially trained surgeons, taught from early on how to use surgical and other medical interventions to assist in childbirth. They certainly have their place in the medical field...helping high-risk women deliver babies...But this is the minority of women."
- "More than 75 percent of women have normal pregnancies, meaning all of the surgical interventions obstetricians are trained to use are [often] unnecessary."
- "Unless there is a complication, medical interventions are typically unnecessary, and often do more harm than good."
When considering the reasons behind cesareans both Dr. Mercola and I suggest the Rikki Lake film The Business of Being Born. In the trailer alone it states:
- "Hospitals are businesses..." inferring it's all about money
- "...if you're gonna have good stuff you might as well use it..." referring to high tech hospital equipment
- "...people don't have the information..." to make informed childbirth decisions (this is where the childbirth classes I teach comes in to play)
- "...medical decision are being made for monetary and legal reasons, not because they are good for the mother and baby..." no additional comment needed
- "How often do you get to see a fully natural birth?" asked of a group of obstetric nurses
- "Almost never." the reply of those nurses
- "C-section is extremely doctor friendly; it's 20 minutes and I'll be home for dinner" as stated by an obstetrician
When I met her husband he asked me, "What have you done to my wife? All she talks about now is natural birth. Before she used to do cesareans and be gone for 45 minutes for a delivery, and now she leaves the house for hours on end; plus she brings home less pay!" What's sad is that this man is a doctor too! Although not in obstetrics, thankfully.
This all brings us back to the earlier comment, "A national strategy to reduce the CD [cesarean delivery] rate is needed..." (I told you to remember this comment.)
In Dr. Priver's article, noted above, he says, "...we might wonder why obstetricians are paid...more – for doing a CS [cesarean section], which involves an expenditure of 30-45 minutes of time, as opposed to guiding a woman through a labor and vaginal delivery, which often requires infinitely more judgment and skill. Consider what would happen to the CS [cesarean section] rate if obstetricians were paid $800-$1,000 more to accomplish a vaginal delivery..."
Now there's an idea worth considering! I'd be the first to line up doctors and teach them how to work with their patients to achieve completely non-medicated births, insha'Allah. I'd be eager to train others to be teachers in order to reach the millions of women whose births this type of change could effect. How about taking it a step further and providing a monetary reward to the mothers who acehive a totally natural birth? Now that would be a happy ending to this story, don't you think?