Cesarean Awareness Month is sponsored by The International Cesarean Awareness Network. ICAN is a non profit whose mission is “to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC).”
Cesarean section is a surgery that saves babies and mothers lives in special circumstances, however, the United States, along with many other countries, have rates that far exceed what has been determined as the ideal maximum rate. Currently, the U.S. cesarean rate is over 30%.
About one third of American babies are born surgically. No scientific basis justifies this rise. No change in women’s bodies or birthing abilities has driven the increase in cesareans.
In it’s 1985 recommendations, The World Health Organization recommended that the highest optimal rate of cesareans is 10-15% of births; in 2009, some discussion arose surrounding stated changes in WHO recommendations. Henci Goer, an award-winning author, speaker and leading expert in evidence-based maternity care, laid out the details in this 2009 Science and Sensibility article that reiterates the science behind the recommended optimal upper limit of a 15% cesarean rate for any country. Beyond that, it causes harm and increases disease and death in mothers and babies. [Her newest post is entitled: Whether Women Have Cesareans is Mostly Arbitrary. I highly recommend the new book Optimal Care in Childbirth by Henci Goer and Amy Romano.]
So why are our C-section rates so high?
It’s not because more Mom’s are asking for them, it’s not because more Mom’s are older or using fertility treatments and it’s not even due to medical liability concerns. Each of these has small correlations with cesarean choices, however, each has been proven not to be a driving force behind the dramatic rise in cesareans.
The Truth About Cesareans is a must watch video presented by Eugene Declercq, Assistant Dean and Professor at Boston University and leading researcher on cesarean section in the U.S. I have been privileged to hear Gene Declercq speak at several conferences; he lays out the research and numbers in a clear and humorous way that helps non-science-minded folks understand it.
To me, as with everything in birth and life, knowledge is power, information provides you with options. Increased cesarean awareness can lead to better self-advocacy, better informed decision-making and better advocacy for change where it can make an impact.
A mother remembers her birth for her lifetime. As a culture, we must value, honor and protect the WAY a mother births and her experience of birth.