In May of 2006, it was announced that a researcher in my city, Vancouver, BC, had received funding to do a study on why some women “choose” to have a cesarean without making any attempt to have a vaginal birth. Just recently a limited program was announced at the local Maternity Hospital to “counsel” women about their “choice” and convince them to at least begin birth with the intention of a vaginal exit for the baby.
Now that the horse is out of the barn, concerned medical minds are tsk-tsking about the ever increasing rate of elective cesarean operations. The answer to “why” women are choosing this course of action is simple. When childbirth is hurried due to a need to keep the hospital beds turning over, it becomes dehumanizing and completely undignified. In the past 20 years, doctors and nurses have been pressured to make childbirth more efficient. Hospital accountants and insurance payers want to know why someone has to be taking up a hospital bed for 48 hours when they only have to dilate to 10 centimetres. Just as a person can’t multi-task when they are making love, birthing women are inherently inefficient in giving birth. Real childbirth takes more patience than anyone in techno/accounting world could possibly muster. If one tries to make birth “efficient”, then women must be induced, augmented, anaesthetized and, after all that, 1/3 of them will still get major abdominal surgery. It is natural, after hearing story after story from friends about “managed obstetrics”, for pregnant women to say, “Not me! I won’t go in and have a chemical soup run through my veins, have my baby oxygen deprived by induction drugs, and then, after hours of torture, get a cesarean anyway. If that’s how it’s likely to end up, why not just schedule a cesarean in the first place?”
The rising cesarean rate is a product of a culture that wants to scrimp and save on the cost of childbirth. The problem is that the cost of this “efficiency” is untold human suffering. Recovering from abdominal surgery is excrutiating. Breastfeeding and caring for a newborn baby after abdominal surgery is a nightmare.
Postpartum depression and cesareans go hand in hand.
When a society has a rate of cesareans over 30% for first time mothers, it’s a sign that the people who are in charge of obstetrics have become very aggressive and don’t care about the pivotal life experience that childbirth is for women. It’s a sign that the women in the community who take care of birthing mothers have been silenced. It’s a sign that childbearing women are on their own with no community support for their most important life transformation–being born as a Mother.