A friend of mine who works in hospital administration alerted me to a Webinar (Web seminar) that took place yesterday about "Cesarean Delivery and the Risk-Benefit Calculus." The seminar discussed the anticipated 50% cesarean rate by the year 2017--that is 10 years from now. If that is true, this presentation argued, hospitals will need to construct maternity wings with the capacity to handle 50% and higher cesarean rates in the near future.
This presentation said that rising cesarean rates (both actual and anticipated) were mostly to blame because of maternal obesity and age. Quoting from the PowerPoint slides that accompanied the presentation (all referring to the projected future scenario):
- Larger mothers lead to unhealthier babies
- Obesity co-morbidities and medications complicate care of pregnant women
- Rates of gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia skyrocket
- Increasing C-section rates cause downstream decrease in pelvic floor disorders (this claim was repeated several times, even though the medical literature reveals that cesareans do not prevent pelvic floor disorders)
- maternal age (which increases fertility treatments, which increases # of multiple births and high-risk pregnancies as well as congenital abnormalities)
- OBGYN lifestyle & liability issues
- The role of midwives moves to prenatal care as cesarean rates increase
- Insurance will drive midwives to work in large group practices
- LDRPs will be replaced by LDRs and a large increase in postpartum recovery rooms to handle the 50% or higher cesarean rate
- Lower rates of fetal hemorrhage, asphyxia, birth trauma, mechanical ventilation, infection, and meconium aspiration syndrome, and feeding problems
I am also disturbed by the blame-the-woman mentality. Women are too old, too fat, too demanding (one factor he listed was the "premium baby" factor), too unhealthy...Especially the real negativity towards women of size. The problem with this attitude is that it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I've been re-reading parts of Michel Odent's recent book The Caesarean. Here is his take on cesarean rates:
The aim should be that as many women as possible give birth vaginally thanks to an undisturbed flow of love hormones. However, the primary objective should not be to reduce the rates of caesareans: it would be dangerous, if not preceded by a first step. This first step should be an attempt to promote a better understanding of birth physiology and particularly a better understanding of the basic needs of women in labour.His maternity clinic in Pithiviers was able to keep cesarean rates between 6-7% while simultaneously having some of the lowest perinatal mortality rates in Europe--something other countries were unable to do without a dramatic increase in cesarean rates. He explains why: women at Pithiviers labored in an environment which facilitated the proper timing and release of hormones. Drugs were almost never used. Pitocin was quite rare, only about 1% of labors. Women were free to labor in whatever positions they wanted, with no one telling them what to do. The clinic's highest priority was that the woman felt safe, secure, warm, and unobserved. For more details about his clinic, read Birth Reborn.
I have a PDF of the powerpoint if anyone would like to take a look at it, by the way.