The World Health Organization has called for the removal of unnecessary birth interventions as early as in 1996, and yet two decades later the opposite has happened — raising serious questions as to whether hospitals are really putting the health of mothers over profits.
Since the WHO’s declaration, more and more women have actually been pressured into having unnecessary C-sections and other risky procedures, such as an assisted delivery with a vacuum or with forceps.
In 2014 32.2% of all women giving birth in the U.S. delivered a baby by Cesarean delivery (a 60% increase since 1996), according to the CDC, a total of 1,284,551 women.
While having a C-section is in some cases a life-saving procedure, new evidence shows that most of them done today are absolutely unnecessary, and are done because of outdated research or medical staff’s impatience.
The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology published a study this March that showed that allowing women to have just one extra hour to deliver a baby would cut the number of C-sections performed in half. In the study, women who were given the usual three hours for labor, had to rely on C-section delivery in 43.2% of cases; women who were given four hours – in 19.5% of cases. All of them had epidural anesthesia beforehand.
If we could cut the rates of C-sections by half, we would save more than half a million women a year from an unnecessary surgical procedure and its many risks. And to do that the medical system needs to completely rethink its guidelines, and how we treat pregnancy.
The Delivery Recommendations are Still Used from the 1800s
The current American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommendations allow a woman three hours to deliver with an epidural anesthesia and two hours without an epidural anesthesia. And where did these guidelines came from? – An opinion of doctors from the 1800s, according to Dr. Alexis Gimovsky at Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, reported The Huffington Post.
“Since [the 1800s], there’s really only been retrospective data used to validate that guideline,” said Dr. Gimovsky, and it hasn’t been looked at since 1950s.
When it comes to C-sections we are using guidelines that are horribly outdated.
“…Today’s obstetricians may be rushing to do Cesarean sections too soon because they’re using an out-of-date yardstick for how long a ‘normal’ labor should take,” reported NPR.
Common Medical Interventions that Prevent Normal Deliveries Today
Normal delivery by definition means “no routine medical interventions.” In a normal delivery labor starts naturally, progresses at its own speed, and results in a vaginal birth.
In 1950s that was a more common occurrence, and two hours of labor was enough for a successful natural delivery.
But today women are receiving medical interventions that make it hard and sometimes impossible to use the same time frame. These disruptors include: medications that induce and speed up labor, not allowing enough time for delivery, pain medications, and epidurals, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
The most common procedure is epidural anesthesia used for pain control. It prolongs the time it takes to deliver by 40-90 minutes on average, but may delay it even longer.
More than half of the women also get medications in order to induce or speed up labor.
All these interventions can be emotionally traumatic for the mother and the baby, which disrupts the important bonding process right after the birth.
And all of the above interventions increase the chances of a C-section, which has its own risks that few seem to realize.
Unnecessary C-sections come with Unnecessary Risks
A C-section is a type of an abdominal surgery, where a surgical incision is made in the mother’s abdomen and uterus in order to deliver a baby.
This procedure has serious risks, both for the mother and the baby. It puts the mother at risk for infection, hemorrhage (blood loss), injury to organs and adhesions (scar tissue on the inside), and even death of the mother. It also comes with emotional trauma, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Between 1 in 100 and 6 in 100 woman will require a blood transfusion after a C-section. About 2 in 100 will have organ inquires, especially bowel and bladder.
The risks for the baby are: breathing problems, low APGAR scores (a common test done to assess newborns overall well-being), and fetal injury (1 in 100 babies will be cut during the surgery).
After The Huffington Post reported that too many women are getting unnecessary C-sections, many women shared in the comments that some doctors almost “bullied” them into getting a C-section. While a C-section is needed in some cases, it is important for the mother to do her own research, listen to her body and find a doctor or other medical assistance that she can trust to have her best interest in mind, and think critically based on the situation instead of blindly following an outdated guideline.
Find a Hospital or a Midwife that will Help Avoid C-Section
Consumer Reports has created a hospitals rating report for 22 states in the U.S. for avoiding C-sections. This guide is useful for finding the best hospital if you live in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, or Wisconsin.
Another option is finding a certified midwife, a person who assists in childbirth, from the American College of Nurse-Midwives search system. Midwives can attend births that happen in hospitals, in freestanding birth centers, or in homes. This option is getting more popular.
In 2009 8% of all births were attended by a midwife, and that number is slowly increasing each year. Midwifes take a holistic approach, but there might be one simple but most important aspect to what makes them great at avoiding C-sections according to Professor Eugene Declercq from the Boston University School of Public Health — “(midwives) have more patience.”